There are over 48 million people in the United States living with some sort of hearing loss.
Deafness refers to a loss of the ability to hear, which may vary in severity. Gallaudet University describes a deaf individuals “Anyone who cannot understand speech (with or without hearing aids or other devices) using sound alone (i.e. no visual cues such as lip reading).”
Deaf individuals can go to college, work professional jobs, drive cars, play sports, raise families, and do pretty much anything except hear.
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) helps protect against discrimination by establishing the rights of deaf individuals to receive equal communication access in the workplace, and in all places of public and private accommodation.
Deafness can be genetic, or occur for any number of reasons during a person’s life.
Not all deaf individuals can or want to utilize hearing aids.
Some deaf people can lip read and/or speak. Others can not.
Some deaf people are candidates for cochlear implants and choose to receive surgery for these devices. This is a very personal choice, and not the right choice for everyone.
Many deaf people utilize American Sign Language as their primary form of communication. But there are other deaf individuals who do not know ASL at all.
If you want to know more about a deaf individual, simply engage them! Write a note, text, email, Facebook message, hire an interpreter, or learn some basic sign language. Don’t be afraid to break through the communication barrier.
Deaf culture refers to members of a linguistic minority group that uses Sign Language as their primary form of communication.
When written using a small “d”, deaf refers to medical deafness. When written using a large “D”, Deaf refers to cultural deafness — someone who identifies as a member of Deaf culture.
Hearing Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs) often identify as members of Deaf culture when they are raised by deaf parents using ASL.
Deaf culture has its own history, traditions, humor, celebrities, icons, current issues, social norms, values, arts, literature, and media.
Deaf culture has members of all ages, races, gender, ethnicity, and religion. It is truly multicultural!
Members of Deaf culture are very proud of their language and cultural identity.
AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE
American Sign Language was created in America by Deaf Americans.
It is a physical language which has its own unique vocabulary, sentence structure, grammar, syntax, and classifiers.
ASL relies on handshapes, movement, fingerspelling, facial expressions, and other body language.
There are an estimated 500,000 Americans who utilize American Sign Language as their primary form of communication.
There are different dialects and regional accents in sign language.
Wherever communities of deaf individuals have developed, so too have signed languages. For example, Nicaraguan Sign Language was spontaneously developed by deaf Nicaraguan school children during the 1970s and 80s, after deaf children were finally afforded educational and social opportunities.
For many people around the globe, Deaf identity is strongly tied to the use of sign language. Attempts to limit the use of signed languages are viewed as a form of cultural oppression.