Englebright Passes New Law to Appropriately Reference the Deaf Community

Chapter 221 of 2018 changes State law terminology from “hearing-impaired” to “deaf or hard-of-hearing”
September 6, 2018

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) announced that his bill (A.7178/S.6128) to strike all references of “hearing impaired” from New York State law has been signed by Governor Cuomo. Instead, the law will refer to those that are “deaf or hard of hearing,” terminology preferred by the Deaf community.

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) explains that the terms hearing “impaired” or “impairment” stigmatize deaf people, implying that they are all broken in some way. Another advocacy organization, We the Deaf People, Inc. explains that using a neutral term is more respectful and non-judgmental.

Matthew S. Moore, President and Founder of We the Deaf People, Inc. said, “I am pleased to see that the New York Legislature listened to the concerns of the Deaf community. One of our goals is to have the euphemism hearing-impaired removed from circulation and replaced with neutral, more accurate terminology such as deaf and hard-of-hearing.

“Terminology is important, as it reflects society’s attitude towards us, and also indicates how we want to be treated. Hearing-impaired incorporates negative framing, labeling deaf people in terms of malfunctioning or broken auditory equipment. Deaf and hard-of-hearing is a simple, neutral, non-judgmental term.”

This new law changes over 25 references across 11 different sections of law. New York has taken this opportunity to set an example for others when advocating for or working with the Deaf community. Englebright said, “This change in law eliminates underlying negative meaning and instead replaces it with terms that respectfully recognize Deaf people.”

The NAD states “This term is no longer accepted by most in the community but was at one time preferred, largely because it was viewed as politically correct… ‘Hearing-impaired’ was a well-meaning term that is not accepted or used by many deaf and hard of hearing people.”

Assemblyman Englebright said, “When it comes to how a certain community would prefer to be referred to, it is always important to listen to advocates and members of that community. They know best and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to make this update in State law.”

Former Assembly Graduate Scholar for Assemblyman Englebright’s office, Jacqueline Mamorsky, raised this issue with Englebright during the 2016 Legislative Session. “As a native New Yorker and advocate for the Deaf, I took the opportunity to make a change. Deaf people have been advocating for this change for many years, so I am beyond thrilled to have been a part of this small but powerful change,” said Ms. Mamorsky.

New York has become one of just three states that have made this change to properly recognize the Deaf community.