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Related Categories: California | Government & Elections
Mendoza bill in California creates ethical and legal issues
by Tim Riker
Monday Aug 16th, 2010 5:26 PM
California bill AB 2072, sponsored by Assemblymember Tony Mendoza will be on the Senate floor for a vote this week with amendments which will create legal and ethical issues. The Deaf community which uses American Sign Language believes that this bill is bad public policy designed to enrich special interests who have reported record profits and will jeopardize the human rights of Deaf children to use American Sign Language.
California bill AB 2072, sponsored by Assemblymember Tony Mendoza will be on the Senate floor for a vote this week with amendments which will create legal and ethical issues. The Deaf community which uses American Sign Language believes that this bill is bad public policy designed to enrich special interests who have reported record profits and will jeopardize the human rights of Deaf children to use American Sign Language.

If the bill becomes law, it will put special interests such as audiologists, physicians, and those who promote the auditory/oral education methods in a position which they have the majority of influence over the contents of brochures which will be provided to parents of Deaf children by an audiologist and again by an Early Start provider. There is no language in the bill currently which guarantees members of the American Sign Language community a seat on the advisory panel. Rather, it vaguely identifies that there must be representatives from "visual language, including, but not limited to, [American Sign Language]". According to Assemblymember Mendoza, it could include representatives from visual communication methods such as Cued Speech, Signed English, and others which the Deaf community believes have historically been tools used to oppress American Sign Language.

Deaf Studies/American Sign Language professor Kevin Clark expressed outrage saying, "When writing a bill about Deaf people, it is important to include a majority of Deaf people. They have lived and breathed every moment as a Deaf person. These audiologists and physicians do not know what it is like to be Deaf. They put a price tag on our ears and want to continue to make record profits on our bodies."

Clark continues, "You would call it bad public policy to write a law about Jews, women, African Americans, gays or any of the other minorities in the way which Assembly Member Mendoza has."

NorCal Services for Deaf & Hard of Hearing CEO Sheri Farinha believes that it is shameful for audiologists and physicians to go against the wishes of their own clientele to enhance their future profit. Farinha says, "Nothing good ever came out of putting a price tag on human rights. This is exactly what's happening here. We have valid reasons for our objections in medical professionals who have taken illegal kickbacks trying to influence the information given to parents. I hope that Senators will take a stand for their constituents against this type of corruption by voting down this bill."

In an announcement on June 9, 2010, a case which was settled between the United States Department of Justice against the Colorado based manufacturer, Cochlear Americas, allegations were raised regardng kickbacks and attemtping to promote itself above its competitors.

According to whistleblower Former Chief Financial Officer Brenda March, Cochlear Americas provided illegal remuneration to physicians who prescribed the use of Cochlear-manufacturerd devices for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Several human rights issues have been raised regarding AB 2072 which may place California in the International spotlight. During the 2010 International Congress on Education of the Deaf conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, which was attended by over 700 educators, administrators, researchers and representatives from non-governmental organizations such as the World Federation of the Deaf, an official apology was announced and signed by over 550 of the participants rejecting its decision in 1880 which banned sign languages and had a detrimental effect on Deaf people for over 130 years. Deaf people were excluded from participating in the 1880 International Congress on Education of the Deaf convention in Milan and led to the founding of the National Association of the Deaf in the United States that same year. For many in the Deaf community, AB 2 72 seems to repeat this dakr part of history and may lead to linguistic genocide.

President Obama signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in July 2009, which had the highest number of signatories in history to a United Nations Convention on its openoing day. The Convention recognizes and promotes the rights of people with disabilities, including the right to participation in political and public life, the right to use signed languages, and the freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse. If passed, AB 2072 may be considered to be contradicting the Convention and opposing the principles set forth by what the United Nations calls, "the first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century." The Convention aims to change the attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities away from "viewing persons with disabilities as 'objects' of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as 'subjects' with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society."
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