This is a subject that’s rather near and dear to my heart and that’s Deafness. I was raised completely hearing in a hearing family. I started losing my hearing at the age of seventeen due to malnutrition from a long term eating disorder. I’m hard of hearing and I use sign language though I don’t need to all of the time. My boyfriend is hearing and so are most of my friends, only two sign. But I teach sign language and consider myself pretty active in the local Deaf community in my area. People ask me all the time: “Oh my gosh! Weren’t you just so sad?! What did your parents say?” like it’s something to be ashamed of. I just look at them like they have lost their minds. Then, I tell them, “No, I’m glad to be Hard of hearing.” and they look at me like I’ve lost MY mind.
A lot of people don’t understand that. How someone could be happy to have hearing loss. It’s a completely baffling concept for them, but, you see, I didn’t really lose anything at all. Sure, school is a little frustrating sometimes and work can be a real hassle but I gained so much more. I gained an entire community that will back me in whatever I decide to do. That’s the thing about the Deaf community. It’s very inclusive but it’s based around, not only a shared language, but a shared and common set of hardships. I can go to California or Washington or where ever and find immediate friends. We are all inextricably linked by a common history and community. There are Deaf rock bands and comedians, Deaf schools, colleges and even entire Deaf towns. There are news channels and tv shows all in sign language, it’s amazing to realize one day that I wasn’t able to hear as well and then, the next day, stepping into this enormous community that I had no idea about until I was a part of it.
So, today, for my hearies and deafies alike, I’m going to answer a few common questions about Deafness. Feel free to ask me more that I don’t mention anytime and don’t worry, I won’t get offended or upset or anything lol. You don’t have to tiptoe on eggshells just to sate your curiosity. 😛
Question 1: Do all Deaf people use sign language?
Answer: No, not at all. Even in my friend group, not all of us use sign language and some of us use different types of sign language. Some of us only speak and don’t use it at all. Some of us use ASL (American Sign Language aka: Pure sign language) and some of us use SEE (Signed Exact Enlish or English signing) and some of us use a mix of these two called Pidgeon or Contact signing.
Question 2: Is sign language universal?
Answer: I wish. Every country has it’s own signed language that is completely independent of ASL. Even in American Sign Language, there are regional differences based on where you live in the country.
Question 3: What’s the difference between Deaf and deaf?
Answer: “Deaf” is used for a person who is a member of the deaf community linguistically, physically, socially and culturally. And “deaf” is used for a person who has hearing loss but chooses not to or doesn’t have the option of joining in with the Deaf Culture as a society.
Question 4: Can hard of hearing people be a part of the Deaf community?
Answer: Ugghhhhh, now this is a sensitive question for me since this is the category I fall into. The authors of Deaf Culture In America, Padden and Humphreys, sum this up rather nicely actually.
“Hard-of-hearing” can denote a person with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Or it can denote a deaf person who doesn’t have/want any cultural affiliation with the Deaf community. Or both. The HOH dilemma: in some ways hearing, in some ways deaf, in others, neither.
Can one be hard-of-hearing and ASL-Deaf? That’s possible, too. Can one be hard-of-hearing and function as hearing? Of course. What about being hard-of-hearing and functioning as a member of both the hearing and Deaf communities? That’s a delicate tightrope-balancing act, but it too is possible.
As for the political dimension: HOH people can be allies of the Deaf community. They can choose to join or to ignore it. They can participate in the social, cultural, political, and legal life of the community along with culturally-Deaf or live their lives completely within the parameters of the “Hearing world.” But they may have a more difficult time establishing a satisfying cultural/social identity.”
Deaf Life, “For Hearing People Only” (October 1997).
Well that’s all I have for this one, ladies and gents. Again, if anyone has any comments or questions or just want me to do a follow up to know more, then you know where that little button down below is! 🙂
- Blogging Against Disablism: Coming Together. (catsandchocolate.com)
- Deaf Awareness: Listen Up! (leccoworkshop.com)