Oralism: the superiority of modality

The term 'oralism' has been around for a long time and it is still used by people in the Deaf community across North America. Oralism is a negative connotation that Deaf people associates this concept with negative experience they grow up with.

The oral proponents, such as AGBell (Alexander G. Bell organization), changed this term to other variants: 'listening and spoken language', 'auditory verbal therapy', and so on, usually capitalized acronomyms such as 'LSL' and 'AVT'.

If you google 'oral' as a single query, the first and the majority of the results on the first page is a dirty word.

Pun aside, Amy C. Efron wrote through social media on April 21 that reflects Deaf people's perception, "Oralism is a dirty word. Auditory Verbal Therapy is a dirty word." This associates with Deaf people's feeling pain in their experience with oralism, coercion, oppression of their natural language acquisition using sight, and exclusion from their natural human language as well as healthy identity, and being Deaf.

The term "listening and spoken language" (LSL) is seen as a twist and crush over the natural human language, American Sign Language (ASL).

"Listening and Spoken Language is used to confuse people and putting this higher esteem over American Sign Language. It is a language appropriation." -Amy Cohen Efron

'Listening and Spoken Language' means nothing more than speech as a modality. It is not a language but a modality.

Efron emphasizes that LSL is actually a therapeutic approach; thus, she points out that it should be called 'listening and speaking therapy'. Back to the old term, 'speech therapy' which is what we traditionally have been familiar with.

The practice and attitude of oralism reflects phonocentrism which is prevalent in this society -- the superiority of aural-vocal modality over visual-spatial modality.


Efron, Amy C. "Stop recognizing LSL. It is really LST." Retrieved, April 21, 2016.