We believe that Deaf people are a linguistic minority group that uses Japanese Sign Language, a language that is different from Japanese. We seek to realize a society that respects Deaf culture and JSL and treats them with equal status as Japanese language and culture, a society in which Deaf people can live as Deaf in a Deaf-like manner.
In July 1991, the 11th World Deaf Congress was held in Tokyo. At that time, the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) had already announced their basic policies such as "respecting the sign language of deaf people in each country and promoting its social recognition", " supporting the bilingual approach" and "emphasizing the necessity of the school for the deaf" from the viewpoint that deaf people are a linguistic minority. However, in the host country, Japan, people did not even have the recognition that deaf people have their own culture and language.
In November 1991, the D editorial office first published 'D', a magazine with a very small circulation, and presented the Japanese deaf community a problem concerning deaf culture and Japanese sign language. The result of this was the criticism that 'D' is "radical" and "too drastic".
Mr. Toshihiko MakiIn autumn 1992, Mr. Toshihiko Maki, who had stayed in the United States for many years, appealed to the deaf people concerned with 'respect for Japanese sign language' and 'bilingual education' to have regular meetings to exchange information. As a result of this, D PRO was established in Atami in May 1993. Mr. Maki was installed as the first president of D PRO.
As most sign language classes at that time were taught by using Sim-Com (a means of communication using spoken Japanese and signs simultaneously), D PRO held workshops for teaching method of sign language in order to teach classes by using Japanese sign language, the language of the deaf. D PRO also held a 'rehabilitation course' (later changed to 'JSL clinic') for sign language interpreters and sign language learners who were unable to understand the sign language of the deaf.
Ms. Leslie C. Greer On 31st of July 1994, D PRO held THE DEAF DAY '94 at Yasuda Seimei Hall in Shinjuku to appeal its philosophy to many people. Ms. Leslie C. Greer, an American sign linguist, gave a special lecture on "Deaf Culture".
At this event, everything was carried out in an epoch-making method that is not by Sim-Com but by the language of the deaf. There was no translation from JSL to spoken Japanese either. There were 400 participants. Many deaf people who attended recollect the event as follows: "I felt as if the scales had fallen from my eyes.", "I realized the true meaning of being deaf." and "I was awakened to the truth."
In January 1995, D PRO was reorganized to improve its activities further. Mr. Akihiro Yonaiyama became the second president. At the same time, it started the D PRO Member's Club (DMC) which is open to anybody who approves D PRO's philosophy.
In autumn 1995, D PRO held the first Autumn School at Ochanomizu Women's University. Ms. Milly Brother, the secretary-general of CODA, the American organization, gave a lecture. There, Japanese CODA met together for the first time and "J-CODA", a separate organization from D PRO, was born. They are still working actively. (CODA=Children of Deaf Adults, in other words, hearing people who were brought up by deaf parents).
Since then Autumn Schools have been held every autumn at National Olympics Commemorative Youth Center. D PRO invited Ms. Ella Mae Lenz (the American Sign Language teacher) in 1996, Dr. Clayton Valli (the American Linguist) in 1997 and Mr. Mr.Guy Bouchauveau, the historian from France in 1998.
On 10th and 11th of February in 1996 at Kawaguchi Lilia, the second THE DEAF DAY '96 was held. A magnificent cast of Ms. M.J. Bienvenu, the American deaf activist and Mr. Ben Bahan who lectures on deaf culture at Gallaudet University gave special commemorative lectures. Mr. Bahan taught us the charm of "sign literature" which is told by sign language. There were attractive programs such as a romantic film made by deaf people, a documentary of a deaf village mayor based on historical facts, and a drama about a deaf school made by a young deaf group DYC. For hearing people who did not understand sign language, translation service was provided through receivers.
In March 1995, the "Declaration of Deaf Culture" (by Ms. Harumi Kimura and Mr. Yasuhiro Ichida) was run in a magazine "Gendai shisou" (meaning modern thoughts) March issue (published by Seido-sha). It created a great sensation in various fields.
Those who are concerned with linguistics, cultural anthropology, sociology, etc. seemed to be deeply shocked to know that Japanese sign language is not merely a substitute of spoken Japanese, and that there are some people who speak a different language and share a different culture within the same country. However, on the other hand, there were some criticisms that it excludes or discriminates deafened people and hard of hearing people who can not speak in Japanese sign language. Other criticism was that what was said in the "Declaration of Deaf Culture" was only applicable to a small number of deaf people.
Furthermore, in April 1996, an extra issue of "Gendai shisou" (a special number on "Deaf Culture") was published. This was edited as a special number with 410 pages because of the great sensation caused by the above mentioned "Declaration of Deaf Culture". Many people from different backgrounds such as a doctor eager to make good use of hearing, an educator, a deafened person, a hard of hearing person, a parent of a deaf child, an anthropologist, a linguist, etc. developed their own opinions. This extra issue also created a great sensation.
D PRO's philosophy is not based on "exclusionism" nor "Deaf nationalism". It is not "the doctrine of deaf for deaf's sake" either. D PRO is only functioning for the liberation from the oppression by the majority, the hearing people.
In April 1996, D PRO suspended its enlightenment activities, established Deaf Studies Center and started four studying teams. This was because the D PRO had to study so many things like: What is the structure of Japanese sign language? What do we have to do to teach sign language? What can we find in deaf (not negative but positive) history? What sort of training is needed to become a sign language story teller? What is necessary to train a sign interpreter who can use Japanese sign language? What needs to be done for the realization of bilingual education? etc.
At the moment "Teaching method of sign language", "Sign language studies and "Deaf literature" are the three registered subjects. In order to present the results of the study to DMC members, Deaf Studies Seminars (later referred to as Open Lecture) are held monthly.
More and more deaf people are at a loss on how to teach Japanese sign language but not Sim-Com. In such context, in April 1997, a series of lectures on teaching method of sign language (for one year) was held, sponsored by World Pioneer Inc. and the third year of it will start this May.
As for deaf education, now is the time to stop the decrease of the number of children in deaf schools. The situation around deaf schools is now becoming difficult. The decrease of the number of children due to integration makes it difficult to transmit deaf culture to the next generation. D PRO has a growing sense of crisis.
In autumn 1998, an association thinking about deaf education was started. For Japanese sign language to be recognized not merely as an activity in D PRO, but legally as a basic language used in deaf schools, the association has its characteristic of appealing widely to many people in different fields. In April 1999, this association opened a free school, "Tatsunoko Gakuen", in order to make it possible for deaf children to live as a deaf person by acquiring both Japanese sign language and Written Japanese.
Prejudice and misunderstanding about deaf people and sign language still remains persistently. Although sometimes deaf people are portrayed in TV drama or films nowadays, the image of deaf people in a television picture tube is totally different from us, the deaf. The social situation surrounding deaf people is still full of misunderstanding, prejudice, and pity. This can be said not only with the general public, but also with specialists of deaf education and those concerned with the deaf, and sign interpreters. Since the academic year 1998, D PRO restarted the enlightenment and external activities which were suspended for a long time. D PRO can now afford to do this partly because it has gradually gathered more talented people.
D PRO will keep on doing its best actively and will make every effort to realize "the society where deaf people can live as the deaf and like the deaf."