UNITED STATES—Marvel, one of the tycoon companies of the comic book industry, has just released a new superhero, and the deaf community is not happy. Sapheara (aka Sap-HEAR-a) is a deaf girl with cochlear implants who aids Tony Stark’s, Iron Man in a limited edition comic book with the help of her hearing aid sidekick, ‘The Blue Ear.’
Marvel unveiled this new comic at the Children’s Hearing Institute in New York two weeks ago, hoping to help deaf children combat bullying within their school systems. The company’s goal was to show deaf children that they could be super, while wearing their hearing aids and CIs.
When ABC reported on this story, they claimed, “…Sapheara will show that hearing disabilities are nothing to be ashamed of.” The problem? Deaf people do not feel ashamed of their disability for one very simple reason: they do not have a disability. “We are sick of people telling us that we are broken,” one Deaf CSUN student who did not wish to be named, signed to Canyon News. “They [hearing people] assume that if our ears don’t work, our brain doesn’t either.” Another compared hearing loss with the need for glasses. “Glasses make our ‘impaired’ vision 20/20 again,” signs the student. “Hearing aids and CIs give us only a small amount of hearing.”
Other’s in the deaf community are upset as well, claiming that, while Marvel’s intentions might have been heading in the right direction, the message it is sending to their children is that it is not acceptable to be deaf, when you could have a hearing aid or a CI and be just a little more “super.” While some, who have children that have these aids are happy that Marvel has tried to write in role models for their children to look up to, others feel like the hearing world is still too focused on the ears. Historically, hearing people have tried to “fix” the deaf community, being unable to look past the hearing loss to the potential underneath.
This story escalated quickly when readers read the comments section and saw a particular comment that stated how interesting it was that deaf people were the only group of handicapped people actively resisting a cure. When read to a deaf culture class with a mixture of hearing and non-hearing students, there were many gasps and signed comments of disapproval.
Labels like “disabled,” “hearing impaired,” and “hearing disabled,” are just a few of the words that have been given in the deaf community. What hearing people fail to understand is that deaf people are so proud of their language and of their identity, that most of them do not want to have hearing views oppressing their lives. While Sapheara and Blue Ear are taking a stride toward deaf awareness, they are falling a step short by only touching on the aspects of deaf culture that are closest to hearing.