Advocating for inclusion has been a defining role of the disability rights movement. However, the sometimes-detrimental effect of inclusion on deaf individuals (children and adults) has often been ignored. When a Deaf person is expected to fit into an existing hearing group (of any type), it places a great burden both on the Deaf person and the group. With proper comprehensive support, it is possible to experience successful inclusion. However, comprehensive support is rarely provided. This holds true regardless of the age of the Deaf person or the nature of the group. Much of the history of the Deaf community has been written by outside observers who may be ignorant of the Deaf experience. The practice of inclusion has therefore led to increased (rather than lessened) isolation of Deaf individuals.
The issue of inclusion comes up often in relation to advocacy for Deaf survivors. Living in a domestic violence shelter with hearing survivors, staffed by hearing advocates, can create such severe isolation that a survivor may prefer to return to their home even if there is abuse. When a program enforces policies such as requiring Deaf survivors to attend support groups, or only allowing entry into the shelter via intercom, they are reinforcing a survivor’s belief that the services are not welcoming and accessible.
While providing an interpreter for short periods of time (such as during intake and during support group meetings) is an appropriate accommodation, it is generally not enough to counteract the isolation that Deaf survivors may experience in programs. This underscores the importance of having culturally affirmative and linguistically accessible direct service advocates for Deaf survivors; it also emphasizes the value of communication to the human condition. Creating safe and welcoming environments for Deaf survivors is an achievable and critical goal for all victims' services providers (seeAccessibility for more information).