Deaf "Survivor" Contestant Praised And Criticized
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 14, 2003
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA--Christy Smith, the first contestant on the CBS television series "Survivor" with an acknowledged disability, is being both praised and criticized for her appearance on the show.
It's another example of how deaf people are often split between those who identify with a separate deaf community and those who want to be included in the mainstream.
"Survivor" is a so-called "reality show" that has ordinary people work together in "tribes" and against each other to achieve specific goals. At the end of each episode, each member votes to have one other member removed.
Smith, a graduate of Gallaudet University, the world's only liberal-arts college for deaf people, has been on the show since February 13. As of Thursday night she was still "surviving" on the show.
Members of the deaf community were expecting to see Smith bring sign language interpreters with her onto the show. But Smith has chosen instead to lip-read and to speak.
"It's almost like she doesn't want people to know she's deaf," said Billy Hartman, who is in ninth grade at a Pennsylvania school for deaf students. "I guess I'm kind of hurt."
For some people, including Smith's college friend Jennifer Peterson, her decision only makes sense.
"I tell people, 'What if you were placed in the middle of nowhere, in the woods, with a bunch of hearing people? Would you sign with them? No,'" Peterson said.
"'Survivor' contestant splits deaf community" (Philadelphia Inquirer)