What is Deafness?
True or False? "There are about 200,000 Deaf people in the US…"
This is False. According to the National
Center for Health Statistics of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, almost six million people living in the United States today are profoundly deaf.
Deafness refers to a world unknown to most Americans. It is world of language, culture, values and beliefs, heritage, and identity. It is a vibrant, visual world belonging to Deaf people - where hearing people are invited but seldom come near.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics of the U.S.Dept.of Health and Human Services, almost six million people living in the United States today are profoundly deaf.
There are two uses of the word 'deaf'. The term spelled with a lowercase 'd' refers to people who are unable to hear but do not primarily use sign language as their means of communication. They spend much of their time with other hearing people. These individuals often have lost their hearing later in life or have enough hearing to rely on sound. The term 'hearing impaired' could refer to these people.
The term that will be used on this website is Deaf (always with an uppercase 'D') and refers to those individuals who share a language and a culture. They are people who are unable to hear and they use sign language as their means of communication. They are physically and culturally Deaf. American Sign Language (ASL) is syntactically and linguistically an actual language such a French or German. It has specific grammar rules which are very different from English - and is the fourth most widely used language in the world. Because of their unique language (ASL) Deaf people often socialize with other Deaf people and share an actual culture. The term hearing-impaired is usually offensive because Deaf people are not impaired. They simply use a different kind of language. They are proud to belong to the extraordinary culture of Deafness.
There are folklore, stories, jokes handed down through the generations communicated only in ASL. There is no sound in the Deaf world, but in its place are visual stimuli that are profound and spectacular. Deaf people are not missing anything - on the contrary, they have a world that is full and vibrant. When hearing people get a taste of that world, they are enthralled!
The disability related to Deafness is the same disability hearing people have when communicating with Deaf people. They use two different languages.
If the majority of people on earth were Deaf then it would hearing people that would have a disability, and it would be they needing the interpreter. Imagine how that would feel if most of the people inhabiting your world were Deaf and you had to find some way to 'talk' to your Deaf doctor, or Deaf boss - or even your Deaf family. You would feel frustrated, misunderstood and probably often stupid. Deaf people often have to struggle with those feelings every day of their lives.
The inequality rests in the fact that hearing people can learn sign language - but Deaf people cannot learn to hear. Perhaps you can put yourself in their shoes and get a taste of what it must be like.
Too often Deaf people have to struggle to communicate, which is not only illegal, but dangerous as well. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law which requires both private and public entities to provide qualified sign language interpreters for their clients that have hearing disabilities.
See what the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) says about Deafness...Return to home…