Marion Andrea Schmidt
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Signing risk and chance
Collaborating for culturally sensitive counselling, 1970–1990
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In 1984, the Gallaudet Genetic Services Center (GSC) opened its doors, offering ASL-based and Deaf culture-specific genetic counselling and evaluation. It was made possible through federal funding to remove barriers to genetic services for ethnocultural minorities. The three hearing geneticists who drove the GSC’s foundation – Walter Nance, Joann Boughman, and Kathleen Shaver Arnos – considered genetic research a collaborative enterprise with Deaf communities, creating, for example, ASL signs for genetic concepts. Combining non-directive with culturally sensitive counselling, they promoted genetics not as a means for preventing deafness, but as a way to gain self-knowledge. Acknowledging deafness as a normal, even desirable trait, the GSC helped prepare the notion of genetic awareness as an integral part of one’s identity and a tool of empowerment for Deaf activism.

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Eradicating deafness?

Genetics, pathology, and diversity in twentieth-century America

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