Most of us only encounter a few deaf people in the course of our lives. We may be oblivious to the vibrant deaf culture that exists in the U.S. and throughout the world. Listen up to the depth and history of deaf culture by checking out these 5 facts about the deaf community.
Deaf Culture Has a Rich History of Storytelling
All culture is intertwined with language. Many deaf people communicate with American Sign Language, or ASL. This common language forms the basis of a storytelling tradition. Deaf culture includes literature, films, plays, performances, visual arts, and even a unique form of music. Keep an eye out for deaf performances or art shows at your local art center.
Residential Deaf Schools Are Centers of Deaf Culture
Residential Deaf Schools are spaces where deaf culture can thrive in ways that are almost impossible within the hearing mainstream. While in a Residential Deaf School, students can grow learn from teachers and role models who are like them, get involved in the clubs and organizations, and develop strengths necessary in deaf culture, like close eye contact. Deaf schools can be both private and state schools.
American Sign Language Is One of Many Sign Languages
Although American Sign Language is the most commonly used sign language, deaf communities use a variety across the world. In fact, there are over 200 other sign languages in use! Some of the most common ones include Langue des Signes Francaise (French), British Sign Language, and Japanese Sign Language. There is massive diversity within deaf culture!
Interpreters for the Deaf Is a Growing Industry
Interpreters are a key link between deaf culture and mainstream society, and they are needed increasingly. The employment of ASL interpreters is projected to rise 46% between 2012 and 2020. ASL interpreters are required in a variety of environments, from hospitals and courts to churches and counseling services.
The Deaf Community Doesn’t Want to Assimilate
Unfortunately, the hearing mainstream often expects the deaf community to assimilate to their culture. Hearing people often view deafness only in terms of a physical deficiency, ignoring the fact that deafness implies an identity and a place of belonging. Members of deaf culture speak a different language, share a history of oppression, and often use different ways of thinking.
Many in the deaf community aren’t interested in completely assimilating to the restrictions of a hearing culture. They rightfully value deaf culture and want to invest their time and energies there. If you are a member of a hearing society, you should support that decision and support the protection and enrichment of deaf culture.
These five facts are just the beginning to understanding and valuing deaf culture! The connection of a shared language can transcend the boundaries of geography, race, class, and nation. Deaf culture is a precious and unique culture that holds lessons for all of us.