Audism is a form of discrimination aimed at persons who are deaf and the actions that deaf persons do to assist in communication with others.[1] Tom L. Humphries coined the term in his doctoral dissertation in 1975,[2] but it did not start to catch on until Harlan Lane used it in his own writings. Humphries originally applied audism to individual attitudes and practices; whereas Lane broadened the term to include oppression of deaf people.

Types of audism

Linguistic audism can occur by banning use of sign languages. Such as the 1880 Milan conference when signed language was banned in schools.[3] Many schools throughout the world engaged in such prohibition and some continue to do so. Audism may also be found in deaf education and in other corporate institutions and groups that deal with deafness. In these cases the educators, administrators, and professionals within these organizations behave in a way that is meant to dominate or marginalize the Deaf community.[4]

Dysconscious audism favors what is normal for hearing people. This limits Deaf culture and pride, by creating an environment in which deaf people must conform to the ways of hearing people. It greatly impacts Deaf education in terms of shunning sign languages in favor of communication that is based on spoken languages, and more acceptable to hearing people.[5]

Additionally, deaf people can practice forms of discrimination against members of their own community, based on what they believe is acceptable behavior, use of language, or social association. Dr. Genie Gertz explored examples of such audism in American society in her published dissertation.[6] Audism can also occur between groups of deaf people, with some who choose not to use a sign language and not to identify with Deaf culture considering themselves to be superior to those who do, or members of the Deaf community asserting superiority over deaf people who use listening and spoken language to communicate.

Active audism is when a person knowingly engages in audist behavior. The person knows the effects of audism, yet still engages in this behavior and has an audist attitude. Passive audism is when a person is engaging in audist behavior, yet does not have knowledge about the Deaf community's values. Passive audists do not think about how their actions or words concern deaf individuals, hearing individuals, or sign language.

Ben Bahan describes audism in two forms: overt and covert audism. Overt audism is a term used to define Deaf people and their culture as inferior to hearing culture. In the medical field, this idea can manifest by looking at deafness as something to be fixed, but can also be applied to practices such as audiology, speech therapy, medicine psychology, social work and other fields. This does not mean that all institutions inherently practice audism but that they are revert to audiological tendencies. These two forms illustrate the exclusion of Deaf people from specific institutions or practices. Bahan notes inventions such as telephones, radios, or a lunch bell can be considered audist because they are sound-based technologies.[7]