Jen Witteborg’s Letter to AG Bell Association

Folks are encouraged to exercise good courage and to share their truths with the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.  For those that do not know the AG Bell Association (AGBAD) – it is an organization that was born on the bedrock of promoting and propagating pure Oralism (banning of American Sign Language from the school rooms and living rooms of Deaf children).  AG Bell Assoc. continues today to espouse its falsehood that one is made independent through listening and talking and that to hear and/or behave as a hearing person is superior to being Deaf.  This notion is known as audism and audism has been very destructive to the lives of Deaf folks and those who interact with Deaf folks – just as racism, sexism, heterosexism, antisemitism etc are destructive to the oppressed, the bystanders, and the oppressor.

Many Deaf lives have been interrupted due to the AG Bell Association’s promoting an exclusionary method and propagating the falsehood that to be Deaf is bad and ASL is an inferior language.   We are all interdependent folks and no one is superior to anyBODY.

Its ok to be Deaf folks – it really is ok.  and at times its dandy and handy to be so.  So…

It is not ok to deny folks a fully natural and accessible language or to judge folks based on what their ears and mouths do and not the content of their character (that is a prejudice folks and that is not cool).

Help AG Bell Association do right.  Send them a message of truth.  See brilliant and beautiful example below.

Alexander Graham (CEO) 202-204-4671 x 107
Susan Boswell (director of communications and marketing) 202-204-4687 x 127

Jen – thank you for your courage in creating this letter and for allowing us to share it here.

Making the invisible visible folks.  Every Deaf life is precious as is all life.

To ALL – if you send something to AG Bell and you would like it shared here – pls just let me know and will get it up.


————–Letter below by J. Witteborg ———————

On Sat, Jul 30, 2011

(Not so) Dear AGBAD,

From all the hearing people in my life – they tell me that I speak SO well – as if I were a hearing person. That said – let me tell you how I really feel.

I am a Deaf film maker, and not a hearing specialist. I haven’t any inclination to be a hearing specialist.

I am a survivor of the Oralism Only method from 1959 before mainstreaming was chic. My mother who knew fingerspelling and signs from her Deaf grandmother who lived with her family, was told not to sign by the doctors and the so-called experts – the same ‘hearing specialists’.

This I just learned from my mother’s sister last weekend.

Do not send any unwanted nor insulting solicitation to those of us who are working in the Deaf field. I do not support oppressive organization and have no intentions of becoming a member of an organization that promotes oralism only, linguicism and audism.

How different – and much more engaging my childhood could have been if it were not for those hearing specialists of days gone by. Thank God, I learned signs at the age of 19 and my life became full and rich with people I could actually understand.

Thank God I didn’t succeed in killing myself at the age of 15 – how dare you to perpetuate the oralism only! I spoke, but I bluffed my way through life. No longer – never again!

LET EVERY DEAF BABY and CHILD learn American Sign Language (ASL) FIRST – lipreading/speech skills are NOT a language – the child can learn it later WHILE learning about Math, Science, Geography and English.

Stop misrepresenting ASL and Deaf Culture – it’s not an option – it’s the ONLY way to live a full life.

Stop promoting Oralism Only and AVT methods (My family is aghasted at such methods!)

APOLOGIZE for the harm your organization has done and is STILL doing by promoting oralism only, and such methods as C.I without ASL/Deaf Culture.

I would appreciate an answer!

Jennifer Witteborg
Witty Productions, LLC

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sallie Mae
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 16:09:42

    Jen, what a wonderful letter to AGB and your point taken and well said!!

  2. deafwizard
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 21:39:29

    Wow, very bold there for Jennifer to stand up for what she believed in. I was the same way when went through speech therapy that interrupted my learning whether in Math, science, English or history which was very upsetting as it’s not necessarily for me to attend there. Again, very bold for her! Thanks for posting it up.
    – Henry Sanders

  3. patti
    Aug 01, 2011 @ 11:42:53

    Sallie Mae – i agree point well taken and stated. You Sallie Mae took a grand stand at AG Bell headquarters in 2009 mounting the steps for the AFA 5. Sorry you werent able to be with us 2 weeks ago but glad u r feeling better and glad for all u do and are.

    and in terms of Jen – she is generous and brave to share such personal truth. she takes this stand for us and for this we thank her.

    Henry – yes i agree Jen stands grandly. I am sorry u too suffered from this the powers that be obsession with ears and mouths and not hearts and minds. U too Henry r grand – i will forever be grateful for u informing me of where George Veditz and Elizabeth (Bessie’s) burial plot is out in Colorado Springs. As i stood at their tombstone i said – thank goodness for folks like Henry

    and next time i visit ill say it again and ill add Jen and Sallie Mae and the many more new folks i am meeting and greeting and cherishing cuz FEET we got and we STAND with Veditz

    henry and sallie mae – i do hope u will send a note to AG Bell’s Graham and Boswell – they need some listening practice too

    much peace

  4. patti
    Aug 01, 2011 @ 11:45:32

    Richard Roehm

    your spam is not wanted here. this is a place of truth not falsehoods

    u can propagate your ill conceived and unjust bull#hit elsewhere but at the People of the Eye+Hand we STAND for the truth and justice



  5. deb myers
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 02:37:11

    Hi Jen- thank you so much for writing this letter to AGBAD! And BTW I want to see your films sometime 🙂


  6. deafwizard
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 17:42:40


    Just found out this comment today as I forget to click in box to ‘check mark’ to notify me for follow up comments. I sent comment in your blog – Letter to AGBell. Now found out that you’ve finally went to to stand at their tombstone. Thank you and so glad to help out for you and others to know where to go to find their grave site.

    Yes, I’ll have to update my vlog as it’s in YouTube – Story of my life as Deaf’ under hasnamaste. To share more information about what I left out in older vlog. Gee, didn’t realize it was 4 years ago. Heh. Hopefully soon to update the vlog and will let you know it’s out and ready. 🙂

    Henry – yes i agree Jen stands grandly. I am sorry u too suffered from this the powers that be obsession with ears and mouths and not hearts and minds. U too Henry r grand – i will forever be grateful for u informing me of where George Veditz and Elizabeth (Bessie’s) burial plot is out in Colorado Springs. As i stood at their tombstone i said – thank goodness for folks like Henry

  7. Mechele Hill
    Sep 02, 2011 @ 13:43:03

    I am not deaf, I have many friends who are. I am outraged by the mere suggestion that ASL be removed, I am appalled that it is suggested that deaf people’s simply behave as hearing. (why because it is easier that the hearing do not need to learn to sign?) I am an amputee, I walk with a prosthesis, and I limp. Perhaps it would be better if I were to walk and behave as someone with both legs, or perhaps a quadriplegic should get out of their chairs and behave as “normal” people? ASL is a beautiful language, to remove it, would be robbing children of a strong foundation. It seems archaic to think these children should be in a classroom. To be able to excell without a language to give them this opportunity. Let’s stop being bi-lingual for children/parents who need Spanish.

  8. Michael J. Toomey
    Mar 17, 2012 @ 21:29:39

    pretty explain so clearly how your life had been through ! ! i am waving waving my hand up for your strong message to them ……

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