Deaf Culture

Update:  On June 16, 2014, the door was closed on us adopting a deaf little boy we had been pursuing for nearly eight months.  Two days later, we were presented with the opportunity to adopt a little boy with a very different set of needs than what we had been preparing for.  We felt God leading us to trust Him by giving this little one a home.  We know He has a plan for the time He gave us to spend learning ASL and studying Deaf Culture, and are eager to see how He uses that in a future adoption process – next time as a family of three!  For more on this decision-making process, see this post.  ASL and the Deaf Community holds a very special place in our hearts, and we are excited to see where that takes us as a family!

 

Ten Common Misconceptions About the Deaf:

  1. Deaf people prefer to be called the politically correct term, “hearing impaired”. The term “hearing impaired” originated from the medical community, and Deaf people dislike this term despite the fact that is commonly considered to be the politically correct and respect label. The term “hearing impaired” focuses on the negative and emphasizes a supposed handicap, but Deaf people view themselves themselves positively and are not unhappy their deafness. They prefer to simply be called “deaf”.
  2. Deaf people are lonely and isolated. It’s a common belief among hearing people that, since they can’t hear and can’t speak, deaf people must be sad and lonely. However, due to the rich culture the Deaf community has found in its language, Deaf people lead happy and full lives that are no different than any hearing persons’.  Most hearing people aren’t aware of the Deaf culture, and thus assume they have no community.  Those who subscribe to this community refer to themselves as “Deaf”, with a capital “D”.
  3. Deaf people wish they could hear. Most Deaf people say they rarely think about hearing. They suggest it’s not much different than the fact that we rarely think about the fact that we can’t breath underwater. When asked, if there were some surgery that could be performed that would make them able to hear exactly as well and the same as a hearing person, most Deaf people respond that they would not want to have this done.
  4. All Deaf people speak ASL. With the medical community working hard to “fix” deafness, some deaf people choose not to embrace sign language, are raised taught to read lips, and are given speech therapy. “Oral” deaf people are often discouraged from using sign language from a young age, mainstreamed into hearing public schools, and separated from their Deaf culture.  If you are interested in learning more about ASL, see our ASL page.
  5. Hearing aids and cochlear implants allow deaf people to hear just like any other hearing person. Hearing devices are a largely controversial issue in the Deaf community. Neither hearing aids nor cochlear implants allow a Deaf person to hear the same as a hearing person. Some Deaf people wear hearing aids to prevent dizziness, or allow them to hear ambient noise, but that does not mean that can hear or understand your voice. Cochlear implants produce a type of hearing and sound, but it is a mechanical form of hearing. Even when a deaf person receives one of these devices, while the hearing community may then refer to them as “hearing”, the Deaf community still refers to them as medically deaf, but not culturally Deaf.  They can be very helpful, but are not for everyone, and it is important to respect the choices people make about these things.
  6. Talking louder will help. People may especially be inclined to do this when they see a Deaf person, especially one wearing a hearing aid. Talking louder will not help, and is considered rude.  Some deaf people wear hearing aids only to increase awareness of their surroundings through ambient noise, but no matter how loudly you speak, they still will not hear your voice.
  7. All Deaf people read lips and speak vocally. Reading lips is an extremely difficult task, even for hearing people. Similarly, not only do most Deaf people not desire to speak, but those who do often attend years of speech therapy and still struggle to speak in an understandable way.  Reading lips and speaking vocally are both hearing solutions to a problem that Deaf people do not believe needs to be solved. In either case, it is considered rude to use your voice when talking to a Deaf person.  If you do encounter a deaf person who chooses to speak vocally, remember that speech is not just a second language for them, they can’t hear themselves doing it!  Be patient, be kind, and do not take such a step outside their comfort zone lightly.
  8. Most Deaf people probably have Deaf parents. Deafness can be acquired genetically, but it is a recessive gene. 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents.  Because of this, the culture of the Deaf is largely passed on through Deaf schools and Deaf community members outside the family.
  9. Deafness is a handicap. Deaf people are extremely proud of their deafness, their community, and their language. Just like Hispanic, French, or Black people view themselves as uniquely individual and not any less because of their culture, Deaf people also view themselves as lacking nothing.  They consider themselves to be a part of a language and cultural minority, not as having a handicap, impairment, or deficiency.
  10. Deaf people can’t drive. Deaf people are able to drive, but just like if you wear glasses or have some other driving impairment, it is marked on their drivers license. Unfortunately, the state chooses to mark their license with “hearing impaired” rather than “deaf”.  In reality, Deaf drivers are typically rated as being equal to or better than hearing drivers, because they are much more observant visually, and typically have much less distractions (radio, talking on the phone, etc.).

 

If you are interested in learning more about deafness and the Deaf culture, here are some resources we have found helpful!

Books on Deaf Culture

Books on American Sign Language (ASL)

For more information on the language, check out our ASL page.

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