Deaf Americans: Community And Culture Essay

1868 words - 7 pages

An average of 90% of all babies born deaf or with some type of hearing loss are born to hearing parents. Deafness can be caused by a variety of things both genetic and environmental. Upon learning their child is deaf, most hearing families try to find ways to fix what they feel is a defect. However, deaf families rejoice in their child's deafness because now they have another person to strengthen the deaf community and carry on the American Deaf culture.
There are approximately 35 million people in the United States who are considered deaf or hard of hearing (Culture and Empowerment in the Deaf Community). The majority of these deaf people struggle in the hearing world until they can find a connection to their deafness. They constantly hunger for language and a sense of truly belonging. Once they are exposed to the deaf community, American Sign Language (ASL) as the deaf language and the closeness of the American Deaf culture, most choose to immerse themselves into the deaf world rather than continuing to be an outsider in the hearing world.
The deaf community is made up of a combination of people.
Deaf of Deaf – deaf children born to deaf parents
Deaf or hard of hearing– people with audiological deficiencies
CODAs – hearing children of deaf adults
Laten deaf – people who lose their hearing later in life
Interpreters – people who facilitate language between deaf and hearing people
Hearing – people who can hear
Although these are all members within the deaf community, they are not all alloted a place within the American Deaf culture. Deaf of Deaf are at the center of the culture. They are the people who have benefited from having deaf parents, experiences from residential schools, and ASL as their native language. Hearing people can never enter the circle of the Deaf culture even if they have a heart for the deaf. They can never fully understand the struggles and triumphs of the culture simply because of their ability to hear.
To truly understand the American Deaf culture, you must understand how the deaf see their world.

American Sign Language is the language of the American Deaf culture. Nearly 500,000 deaf people use ASL (Wilcox 104). ASL is a visual language and can not be written like spoken languages can. It is a combination of hand shapes, movements, and locations combined with non-manual markers that convey a word or concept. There are no English equivalents to most ASL signs. There have been various styles of sign languages used through history, in an attempt to make sign language follow English rules, however, not one attempt has been successful.
For many years, ASL was not considered a language. Then in 1965, a man named William C Stokoe published a dictionary using the handshapes, movements and locations of ASL signs. In actuality, it was not as useful a tool as he might have hoped, but it did open the door to the acknowledgement of ASL as a language in and of itself. He showed how signs could be broken into smaller parts...

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