Publication Date

April 2011


Brian Fay


College of Social Studies


English (United States)


My thesis examines the rights discourse surrounding the education of pre-lingually deaf children of hearing adults. In particular, I am looking at claims made by deaf rights activists that either 1) deaf children have a human right to learn a signed language, as part of a language-rich environment which is necessary for their development or 2) that American Sign Language is an integral part of the unique culture of the American Deaf community, and thus that deaf children in the United States have a cultural right to early exposure to ASL and culturally deaf adults. I conclude that all children should have the right to learn a language and that, furthermore, the American Deaf community is culturally distinct and may warrant special protections. However, I do not believe that these conclusions need to conflict with the parental rights of hearing parents of deaf children. I recommend reforms to current deaf education policy, with an emphasis on access to ASL and bilingual education.



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