Deaf Culture Carolyn Mason I was interested in immersing myself with this group because they are a community of people that I’ve often wondered about. I’ve always wondered about the way they communicate with others and was it hard being deaf or hearing impaired in some ways. As myself, I learned that most people feel uncomfortable when meeting a Deaf person for the first time and this is very normal. When we communicate with people, we generally don’t have to think about the process. When faced with a Deaf person, we are uncertain which rules apply. We don’t know where to look, or how fast or loud to speak.
When the Deaf person gives us a look of confusion, we don’t know how to correct the problem. Accept the fact that your initial communications will feel uncomfortable and awkward. I learned at the deaf event that as you interact more, you will start to feel more comfortable and know how to make yourself understood. A friend of mine took American Sign Language as one of her college courses. From what she was telling me and demonstrating, it seems to be an interesting subject and I’ve thought about taking it. Quina was of good use when I chose this topic.
She was able to inform me on events which were held for the deaf community. I decided to attend one of the deaf events with her. Apart of the deaf community where individuals who communicate via signed languages, individuals who attended schools for the deaf, children of deaf parents, and sign language interpreter. Although culturally deaf people use sign language, not all signers are deaf. There are many hearing signers who grow up in or interact with culturally deaf communities. Because deaf people usually have hearing parents, many have relatives who learn sign language and become involved in deaf communities.
And like children born to Spanish-speaking families in the United States, hearing children of deaf parents learn spoken English from relatives, friends, and other English-speaking adults in their neighborhood. They grow up bilingual in ASL and English, and move between the two cultures. I was able to see and experience some of the ways deaf and hearing impaired people communicate. This particular deaf event is held twice a month at the Starbuck’s located in St. Matthews Mall. It is called a “Deaf coffee chat” and they fellowship with one another. Several other events were held at other Starbuck’s ocations also. I learned when communicating with the deaf community, you should be comfortable as with any one else. Giving them eye contact makes them feel comfortable. Some use sign language, some use interpreters and some read lips. People who describe themselves as “hard of hearing “or “deafened” do not see themselves as members of the Deaf culture. Some may know sign language but their primary language is English. Each was unique in his or her own way. They don’t want to be looked as having a disability or being different from other’s who aren’t deaf or hearing impaired.
I had the opportunity to interview one of the people who were part of the deaf community. Her name is Mary Wilson. Mary was a young lady in her mid thirties. She was born deafened. She used ASL (American Sign Language). My friend Quina introduced us and she interpreted for us, although there was a sign interpreter there. She could tell I was very nervous, I told her I was writing an essay on the deaf community. She was happy that I took an interest. She said most people don’t bother especially if they don’t have to deal with someone that’s deaf or hearing impaired.
I was honored to have the opportunity. She explained that she lives her life to the fullest, just as a person who can hear. Mary stated that she has lived her whole life using sign. She taught me how to sign hello, nice to meet you, and goodbye. It was really nice meeting her and observing the different ways each of them communicate and have such an enjoying time with one another. They all sit around and share coffee and lattes and casual conversation, as if they were literally speaking to one another. Which they were communicating as we do; only they were using sign.
The deaf culture/community stands for shared beliefs, values, and behaviors of deaf or hard of-hearing people who use sign language as a primary means of communication and who are members of local deaf communities. Historically, communities of deaf people have existed in most countries of the world, each with a unique cultural heritage, and often, a distinct sign language. In the United States, culturally deaf people are joined together by a common language (American Sign Language, or ASL), a common history, and many common traditions. Most culturally deaf people are deaf or hard of hearing from birth or a young age.
They also grow up using sign language for most of their lives. Between 21 million and 28 million people in the United States are hard of hearing or deaf. However, only a relatively small number of people (between 100,000 and 200,000) consider themselves culturally deaf. Most other deaf people either lose their hearing after childhood or grow up without using sign as their primary language. Culturally deaf people live throughout the United States. Particularly large communities of culturally deaf people are found in and around such cities as Chicago, Illinois; New York City; San Francisco, California; and Washington, D.
C. Although they may not live together in the same neighborhoods, they frequently socialize with one another and meet together at sign language events. Culturally deaf people are recognized by the common characteristics of deafness and of the use of a visual language. Although the trait of deafness is central to the culture, not all culturally deaf people are completely or profoundly deaf. Just as there are variations of skin color among African Americans, there are variations in hearing loss among culturally deaf people.
People who are hard of hearing tend to be both admired and criticized within deaf culture because they seem more like hearing people. One of the most dominant cultural patterns in the Deaf culture is collectivism. Deaf people consider themselves members of a group that includes all Deaf people. They perceive themselves as a close-knit and interconnected group. Deaf people greatly enjoy being in the company of other Deaf people and actively seek ways to do this. When Deaf people first meet, the initial goal is to find out where the other person is from and to identify the Deaf friends they both have in common.
A person’s physical appearance is noted and remembered because it is the landscape for all signed communication. Sometimes a person’s name may not come up until the end of the conversation. Closely associated with collectivism is the importance of open communication. Having secrets or withholding information work against an interconnected collective. Another important cultural value for Deaf people is their language – ASL. Most Deaf people spend the majority of their lives with people who do not know ASL. It is only when Deaf people are in the presence of other Deaf people that all communication barriers are removed.
It is obvious to most people that ASL is a visual language. What is not so obvious is how the visual nature of the language impacts on the rules for communication. In spoken languages there is no requirement for eye contact between the speaker and listener. In fact, we spend very little time looking at each other. We are not used to maintaining eye contact for long periods of time. Also, we often allow environmental noises to take our attention and we divert our eyes. In a signed conversation the “listener” must always look at the “speaker. From the Deaf perspective, broken eye contact or the lack of eye contact shows indifference. Most hearing people do not freely and effectively use their face and body to communicate, so Deaf people see their communication as lifeless and lacking emotion. Facial expression and body language are integral parts of ASL. Deaf people have an exceptional ability to use and read nonverbal communication. They pick up on very subtle facial and body movements. An important aspect of body language is the use of “touch. ” Touching another person is used in Deaf culture to greet, say goodbye, get attention, and express emotion.
Those who consider themselves part of the Deaf community do not automatically include all those who are clinically or legally deaf, nor do they exclude all hearing people. According to Anna Mindess, “it is not the extent of hearing loss that defines a member of the Deaf community but the individual’s own sense of identity and resultant actions. ” As with all social groups that a person chooses to belong to, a person is a member of the Deaf community if he or she “identifies him/herself as a member of the Deaf community, and other members accept that person as a part of the community. As you can see this community was formed by choice. Being apart of the deaf community is totally voluntary. It is the person’s choice if they decide to become apart of this community, not all deaf or hearing impaired choose to be apart of it. I learned a lot from this experience. I realized that judging or feeling sorry for a community different from our own isn’t wise. We must learn to experience and not perceive things as we think they are. Spending time with the deaf community showed me that they are no different from us (speaking & hearing people).
They are very involved in their lives and apart from using sign languages; Deaf culture has typical behaviors and manners that define its social norms. This experience made realize my own community needs to be more socialable with one another and come together as one. I also feel my community needs to stop being so judgmental about different things, especially if we haven’t experienced it first hand or are knowledgeable about it. Beyond writing this paper, this will affect my life because I’ve learned about a new community and there ways of life and I will be more open to learn even more, not only about them but other communities as well.
This was a very great experience and I’m happy that I did it. Works Cited Page “Deaf Culture”. Ed. Anna Mindess. 2006. Wikipedia, The free Encyclopedia. 17 October 2009, 17:18 UTC. 22 October 2009 . “Deaf Culture”. Ed. Charlotte Baker and Carol Padden. 1978. Wikipedia, The free Encyclopedia. 17 October 2009, 17:18 UTC. 22 October 2009 . “Deaf Culture”. Vers. Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved 1993-2009 Microsoft corporation. All rights resrv. Ed. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2009. Vers. Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved 1993-2009 Microsoft corporation. All rights reserved. 1997-2009. 1997-2009 .