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Then They Came

Then They Came

by Diane Edge

Editor: We’ve probably all seen Rev. Niemoller’s “Then They Came”, which addressed people’s indifference as the Nazis oppressed various groups in the 1930s.

Diane Edge has adopted that work to address the gradual erosion of disability rights in this country. The message is that all of us need to object when we see anyone’s rights curtailed. If we don’t, all of the rights we have come to take for granted are in danger.

Here’s Diane’s Essay:


A deaf advocate’s perspective – inspired by Rev. Martin Niemoller’s
speech “then they came” (1937).

Revised by Diane Edge,
Deaf Services Director – Advocacy Support League

Then they came….

First they came for those who were developmentally disabled; because I am deaf, I didn’t speak up because after all, I am deaf and I have my own problems.

Then they came to fill in the curb cuts because the storeowners screamed that it was too expensive to provide access for wheelchair users, and I didn’t speak up because I am only deaf and walk with no problem.

Then they came to stop mental health services because society felt that the cost was too great and the need was unimportant. I am only deaf and I didn’t speak up because it doesn’t affect my world.

Next they came to cut funding in residential schools, but I didn’t speak up because I was mainstreamed and it really didn’t matter because I would soon just get a cochlear implant.

Then they came into our homes, unannounced and without an interpreter, but I read lips pretty well, even though it was dark that night, I didn’t speak up because after all what can I do? I might have missed some of the conversation, but I think I understood it well enough.

Then they came to remove the captioning from the movie theaters, but I didn’t speak up because, there are only a few theaters that show captions in my state and I will wait for the video to come out.

Then they came and turned off the Relay services because it bothered the hearing people to deal with this kind of calls. And I didn’t speak up because there was no TTY line to use.

Then the Supreme Court ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act was no longer needed and I didn’t speak up because I am only deaf and I didn’t know what to do.

Then they came for me……. and I was alone. There was no one left to speak up.