The deaf community is a term used to refer to a group of people with similar medical conditions, which is hearing loss or deafness, but also includes their family members and Sign Language interpreters.
We are talking about a community that shares similar experiences, and communicates in the same ways, as for example with Sign Language or lip reading. They also help its members deal with the hardships they would usually face in their daily lives and the help that they may require through sharing of individual experiences, and nurturing strong community values within themselves. It is a community that faces a lot of barriers due to the lack of accessibility at places like airports, government offices, at home while watching TV, or even doing something as basic as trying to communicate with hearing people.
Speaking of Sign Language, the community largely uses it as their primary source of communication. However it is not universal, and the USA uses American Sign Language (ASL).
Yes! Deaf and hard-of-hearing people usually feel comfortable with the “deaf community” term. They are words that are accepted by the community, but sometimes do imply nuances that some people may not feel comfortable with.
A particular deaf community would be made up of a group of people that have similar values, heritage, culture and also communicate in the same Sign Language. Around the world, there are many deaf communities around the globe, each having its own characteristics and cultural nuances, just as it works for hearing people.
To be part of the deaf community is an individual choice that depends on your values and your beliefs. Therefore, not all deaf and hard-of-hearing people consider themselves part of it.
The community itself promotes social interaction for deaf people and includes CODAs (acronym for children of a deaf father or deaf mother) and Sign Language interpreters. There are many benefits for deaf and hard-of-hearing people to be part of the deaf community. It may play an integral role in boosting one’s confidence with interactions that they may have found hard before, or rather find themselves overcoming obstacles that impede them on their path to be treated with equity.
Nowadays, there are institutional resources and foundations that can be utilized such as deaf organizations, associations, clubs, schools, events, and much more. Thus, the community is really broad and comprehensive as it seems.
What characterizes a community is the union of people with similar cultural practices. When we talk about the deaf community, it brings together all people who communicate through Sign Language and/or visual experiences, with stories and experiences in common, whether they are deaf or hearing.
The deaf community is made up of people who identify as deaf or hard-of-hearing, but it doesn’t stop there! Hearing people engaged with the cause, Sign Language interpreters and translators, CODAs, friends and other relatives are also included in this group.
A crucial factor in the identity of deaf or hard-of-hearing people is that there are oral deaf people, who normally use devices or cochlear implants, perform lip reading and verbalize. And those who communicate through Sign Languages, such as ASL (American Sign Language).
In America, according to the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), 1 in 20 Americans is currently deaf or hard-hearing, hence the statistics say nearly 10,000,000 persons are hard of hearing and close to 1,000,000 are functionally tone deaf. And, in global statistics, there are approximately 72,000,000 deaf people worldwide.
There are multiple deaf communities, and each one has a way of working. But they have similar characteristics in principles and values.
The deaf community has some main characteristics, such as:
Acculturation happens because the majority of deaf people are born from parents that are hearing so they do not have the cultural transmission through traditional means, thus at times most deaf people live out the rest of their lives without feeling some niche cultural nuances, with the help of technological advances and other means of appropriation however, this does not seem like it would necessarily be the case for the deaf people of the future generations.
Deaf people have the right of receiving a great education and to be equal to those without hearing impairment; as well as to have the right to better access to hearing institutions.
Their education, which has a different structure is designed in such a way that it is dished out to unite as well as fulfill their educational, cultural, linguistic, cognitive, and social needs and this is divided into three methods: bilingual, total communication, and oral.
Bilingual is the method that teaches Sign Language as a native or first language and writing as a second one. Total communication includes Sign Language, gestures, lip reading, writing, and visual imagery.
The deaf culture has Sign Language as the main form of communication, believes in the idea of deaf gain, and most of its characteristics are based on the educational background for their special education to be given out more widely and people who are deaf being more broadly assimilated into this said culture.
Not all deaf people identify or feel represented by the deaf culture. It is all about your personal history, beliefs, and self-identity. There exist people who are in the deaf community but do not emerge into the aspects of the deaf culture as they have their own individual way of living their lives.
Many members of the deaf community have a strong disagreement about cochlear implants, they see this as an attempt to “fix” them, a form of oppression from the hearing world. However, inside the community, there are people that do not see implants as a bad thing, and some see them as a life-changing intervention.
Some hearing people see this technology as a full cure for deafness, but this is not true. The cochlear implant is a complex process that could take a lifetime to function, in each person it is a different process, and based on their degree of hearing loss they could take longer to get accustomed to using implants and prosthetic help. The person that has the implants needs constant speech therapy treatment, to learn vocal cues, to learn how to speak and string together sentences from scratch, and to understand the process of the said implant. But this also comes with a touch of good news as there are many happy people with the implants.
In the Deaf Community, CODA means Children of Deaf Adults, representing that the father, mother, or both, are deaf.
The majority of the children of deaf people (close to 90 percent) are hearing people and have been part of this community since birth. Because they are children of deaf parents, their first language can be ASL and they are involuntarily inserted into this community, as they grow up around this culture.
It is also important to understand that not all deaf people have deaf parents, only 10% of these people are born into deaf families.
Until this day, there are a lot of discriminative and pejorative ideas and notions about deaf people and the deaf community. Unfortunately, due to the lack of information, we still see a lot of audism in society. In other words, it is a way of prejudge and discrimination against deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
One of the best ways to help is to understand and respect them. They do not want nor need to be forcibly included in the hearing culture, this is not the easiest way, just the ignorant one. The society’s full of complexity and plural cultures and languages, so it’s necessary to embrace that. For that, it is urgent to prioritize accessibility and all kinds of assistive technologies for deaf people.
To better work as a society and build a better place for them in this world, we need the help of public and private organizations to make projects to educate people about the deaf community and be an ally to the community, making them feel more integrated and seen.
You can start to do your part by learning American Sign Language right now, for free, with the Hand Talk App.