Why Are So Many Non-Disabled People Incapable of Actually Listening to the People They Claim to Support?
Non disabled people are exhausting
If you’re not on disability TikTok (or follow any related social media discourse) you might not be familiar with Lola Wade, a U.S. high schooler who has amassed over 350 thousand followers across her Instagram and TikTok platforms under the username “ASL With Lola.”
The only problem? Lola isn’t deaf nor is she qualified to teach ASL, and she is signing things incorrectly.
Over the past few months, various deaf, hard of hearing, and children of deaf adults, creators have called her out, and yet she still continues to make her videos.
Abigail Vogeler, a deaf TikToker and advocate, who has addressed Lola’s misuse of ASL in a video, says, “I wish she would listen to the Deaf/HOH community! Instead many of us, including my mutuals have been blocked for speaking up and telling her that what she’s doing is harmful. Many people think she’s being ‘attacked’ for learning ASL, but the truth is no one’s attacking her for that. In fact, we love when people want to learn sign language.”
“But when you’re learning it’s not appropriate to go on an app with a big platform and teach people a word a day. Many of the words she has taught have been wrong and if people are taught ASL wrong, that’s not providing access to the deaf community,” Vogeler tells me via DM. “ASL is not an aesthetic or an accessory for hearing people to use for profit. I would love an apology but at the very least ask her to listen!”
Vogeler says that she and her fellow deaf TikTokers have received death threats because they’ve spoken out against Lola’s actions and that Lola herself has deleted comments that correct her incorrect signing.
“I’ve seen deaf people be told our community ‘gets off on bullying minors’,” Vogeler says. “It’s so frustrating to be a part of a minority group and for so many people to ‘side’ with Lola or paint deaf/HOH people to be mean.”
“I’m happy she’s learning ASL, but I’m sad she’s ignoring deaf/hoh people. It feels like she’s teaching ASL to profit off of a language so tied to Deaf culture without listening to us. Obviously not all deaf people have the same opinion when it comes to her page, but she should listen to people giving her critique and asking her to stop teaching.”
According to Forbes, there are nearly 40 million individuals with hearing loss in the U.S. alone, and 1.5 billion are deaf in at least one ear worldwide.
Abigail isn’t the only creator to respond to Lola’s harmful use of her platform and has shown how to do the signs correctly.
Many have pointed out that she is learning and yet is marketing herself as fluent, and has even gone as far as to sign the U.S. national anthem for a baseball game at The University of Alabama and said that she was “grateful” for the opportunity. She also uses sign language in branded influencer posts, directly profiting off of ASL.
Despite being called out for her accounts since she started posting in 2021, she has not given the deaf community a proper apology or asked for help in her learning of the language. She “addressed her account” in August last year in an Instagram post last year writing, “I in no way mean any harm to the deaf community. I am trying to learn sign language and track my journey through it. Please do not learn from me but from deaf creators such as the ones tagged in this post.”
“I am learning about deaf culture and the deaf community as I go,” she continued. “I have had a lot of backlash about my videos and a lot of encouragement, both from the deaf community. Any funds that I do receive, a portion of that is going to help deaf foundations in the US. “
“I still am going to continue my page just change up some things so it doesn’t seem like I’m teaching. I will still do Song Covers and Show signs that I learn but clarify more that I am learning and that deaf creators are the ones to learn from.”
But this apology is nearly two years old and yet she has carried on with her videos, and seems to ignore those who want to help her.
Like all of the deaf creators and the rest of the deaf and HOH community, we hope that she learns from all of the videos and comments, apologizes for the upset she has caused, and stops speaking over the people she claims to be supporting.
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