Deaf Culture Notes:
Evolution of terminology: Terminology changes over time with
varying levels of acceptance from different factions of society at any one
time. As of the time of this writing (early 21st century) the word Deaf has
been accepted by the culturally Deaf community and major organizations
representing Deaf people (such as the National Association of the Deaf and
the World Federation of the Deaf) as an acceptable and proper term to use
when discussing Deaf people.
Capitalization: Some people feel the word Deaf should always
be capitalized for ethnic reasons. (The
term "ethnic" refers to large groups of people classed according to shared
cultural, linguistic, racial, tribal, religious, or national origins or
backgrounds.) Other people prefer to use the lowercase word
"deaf" to refer to the physical condition of being deaf and use the
capitalized word "Deaf" when referring to being culturally Deaf.
Writing Style Choices: This guide may sometimes use the lowercase
"deaf" to refer to the physical aspects of "not hearing." This guide will
use the uppercase word Deaf to refer to Deaf people, culture, and
organizations. If you are a student and your local teacher prefers you
to always capitalize the word Deaf then you should respect your instructor
and follow his/her wishes. If you are submitting a paper for inclusion
in an academic journal then you should follow the submission guidelines for
that journal and/or include in your article an early discussion of
terminology and capitalization and your reasons for your capitalization
Deaf: Culturally Deaf people prefer to be called Deaf.
Deafness: The term "deafness" is still quite common in blogs
and writings -- even by Deaf people who are active in the Deaf Community.
However you should know that there are growing numbers of people within Deaf
Community that frown upon the word "deafness" because it has traditionally
been a label applied to Deaf people by Hearing people in the context of
"disability." Many Deaf consider the term "deafness" to embody primarily
negative aspects of being Deaf. Conversely, when discussing ourselves,
our personal journeys, our level of self-acceptance, and our progress toward
self-actualization as a person who is Deaf we use the term "Deafhood." So,
please realize that while many people still use the term "deafness" and you
will still often see it online and in older writings this is a situation of
language evolution away from one term and toward another. The term
"deafness" has its uses and may persist indefinitely but you should at least
be aware that "some" bloggers and activists are actively denouncing the
Hard-of-hearing: The phrase "hard-of-hearing" refers to people
who have some degree of hearing loss but who can still function in the
hearing world. Some hard-of-hearing people choose to learn sign language,
form relationships with other Deaf, join Deaf organizations, attend Deaf
events, embrace their Deafhood, and call themselves Deaf. It is
acceptable for culturally Deaf hard-of-hearing individuals to simply refer
to themselves as Deaf.
Deaf/HH: Culturally Deaf people who are able to use hearing
aids, speechread, and talk with their voice may choose to label themselves
as Deaf in general and hard-of-hearing in specific so as to not overstate
their status. For example, sometimes during introductions or
explanations a person will sign, "I/me DEAF" and then will add the sign for
"hard-of-hearing (HH) immediately afterward as a way of stating that he/she
is considers himself to be Deaf but with the caveat that he/she can hear to
Just Deaf: In the Deaf community you rarely see the phrase
"Culturally Deaf." Rather we simply use the term "Deaf." We are
Deaf. Some of us are stone deaf and can't hear an oncoming train. Some
of us have quite a bit of residual hearing and can talk to our mom's on the
phone (but would rather sign to her). Deaf people have varying levels
of residual hearing. What makes us Deaf isn't our residual
hearing level but rather our preference to be a part of the Deaf Community.
We do not need to add the word "culturally" to the uppercase word "Deaf."
The phrase "culturally Deaf" is redundant because the uppercase spelling of
the term "Deaf" already includes the concept of "culture."
Self-exclusion: There are many physically-deaf or hard-of-hearing
people who are not a part of the Deaf Community. Such individuals are
part of the greater Deaf World but they choose to not "commune with" Deaf
people, to not learn our language, and are thus not part of the Deaf
Deaf World / Deaf Community: The phrases "Deaf World" and "Deaf
Community" overlap quite a bit in real world usage but some distinctions
might be possible: The Deaf World includes all Deaf people as well as
their families, friends, allies, employers, interpreters, teachers, priests,
audiologists, and others with ties to the Deaf Community. The Deaf
Community is made up of individuals that use sign language and are
focused on living their lives rather than trying to change their status and
live in the Hearing World. Thus a preacher or parent who learns sign
language might be a part of the Deaf Community but a cochlear implant doctor
is not. An interpreter who goes to Deaf events, has Deaf friends, and
supports Deaf causes is a part of the Deaf Community. But an
interpreter who simply goes to a day job where they interpret for one Deaf
client and then goes home and has little or no additional contact with Deaf
people -- is not a member of the Deaf Community.
Hearing Person: A person who can hear and has the mindset of a
person who can hear is a referred to as "Hearing person." The term "Hearing"
can be capitalized to refer to being a member of the "Hearing" culture but
many writers do not capitalize it.
Hearing School: A "hearing school" generally refers to a public
(or private) school that is mainly attended by children who can hear and
taught by educators who use speech.
Mainstreaming: In the Deaf World, "mainstreaming" refers to the
placement of a Deaf student in a hearing school with or without an
In the Deaf world the hearing children of Deaf parents are
generally well accepted and considered to make good interpreters because of their
familiarity with ASL and Deaf Culture. The special term that these children
are called is: *CODA (Child of Deaf Adult)
02. What is the philosophy of embracing two languages and cultures?
03. What is the world's oldest Deaf advocacy organization?
*National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
04. At what university did the "Deaf President
Now" event take place? *Gallaudet University
05. What is the name of government program that provides regular
paychecks to help some Deaf people pay for basic living expenses?
*Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
06. What is the name of the Deaf man who came to America in 1817 from France and helped Thomas H. Gallaudet and establish the first
American school for the Deaf? *Laurent Clerc
07. What service uses communication assistants or interpreters to allow hearing people
to call Deaf people, and vice versa? *Relay Service
08. What is the government agency that helps provide training and
employment assistance to many Deaf people? *Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)
09. In ASL Linguistics what do we call facial expressions and body movements that
are used to inflect signs? *Non-manual markers (NMMs)
10. What do we call text or subtitles that are embedded in a video
signal which can be displayed on demand? *Closed Captions (CC)
11. What do we call a state-run residential
education institution for individuals who are Deaf? *Deaf School
12. What do we call or what signs do we use to
refer to a typical public school? *Hearing School
13. What do we call signs which use handshapes that can
be used to represent categories of things that share the same general
14. What is the common syndrome that affects many
interpreters and Deaf people and causes numbness and/or pain in the wrists?
15. What was the protest that took place the week
of March 6, 1988 at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. and became
an international Deaf movement? *Deaf President Now (DPN)
16. What phrase is considered "politically
correct" by many Hearing people but is considered inappropriate and/or
offensive by many culturally Deaf people? *Hearing Impaired
17. What term refers to a philosophy of
encouraging (forcing) Deaf to speak and read lips rather than use sign
language? *Oral / Oralism
18. What do we call "non-Deaf" people who can
hear and who do not use sign language? *Hearing
19. Signing and voicing at the same time is
frowned upon by many Deaf academics and Deaf community leaders. What do we
call signing and voicing at the same time? *Simcom
20. What do we call the phone system used by many Deaf
people that let's them see and be seen by the person on the other end of the
call? *Video Phone (VP)
21. This law originally passed in 1990 has had a
profound beneficial impact on the lives of Deaf people. *"Americans with
Disabilities Act." (ADA)
22. This person, who's initials are AGB, is held in low esteem by many in
the Deaf community because of his efforts to suppress the use of sign
language in favor of oralism. *Alexander Graham Bell.
23. What is the language of choice of Culturally Deaf people in America,
parts of Canada, and many other areas in the world? *American Sign Language
24. This organization was set up in 1967 and has chapters all over the U.S.
Their purpose is to provide support, encouragement, and information to
families raising children who are Deaf or hard of hearing. (For more
information, see: http://www.deafchildren.org) *American Society for Deaf
25. This national organization is dedicated specifically to the improvement
and expansion of the teaching of ASL and Deaf Studies. *American Sign
Language Teachers Association (ASLTA)
26. This is a philosophy of embracing two languages and cultures.
27. This signed language is used in England and other areas of the world.
One of its distinguishing features is that it uses a two-handed manual
alphabet. *British Sign Language (BSL)
28. A highly esteemed liberal arts university in Washington D.C. for Deaf
and hard-of hearing students. *Gallaudet University
29. This refers to captions, text, or subtitles that are embedded (hidden)
in a video signal and can be turned on or off (displayed on demand). In the
past these captions used to require a special decoder device to be seen. In
the "old days" this decoder was a box that sat on top of your TV. Now the
decoder is commonly included in TV circuitry and is not a separate device.
These captions are turned on or off using your TV' or video player's
configuration menu. Internet-based streaming video players (if they support
captioning) tend to have a symbol or button labeled "CC" that can be used to
turn captioning on or off. *"closed captioning" (CC)
30. Many Deaf couples hope for this: *A deaf baby
31. Signs that are used to represent general categories of things. They can
be used to describe the size and shape of an object (or person). They can be
used to represent the object itself, or the way the object moves or
interacts with other objects (or people). Another definition is: "A set of
handshapes that represent classes of things that share similar
characteristics." *Classifiers (or "depictive verbs")
32. This Deaf man was born south of
Lyons, France, in 1785. He became deaf due to an accident when he was very
young. He enrolled at age 12 at the National Institute for the Deaf in Paris
and graduated eight years later and became a tutor for the Institute. He
journeyed to America at the request of Thomas H. Gallaudet in 1817 and
helped establish the first American school for the Deaf. He retired at age
73. *Laurent Clerc
33. An obsolete term that refers to all people who have
a hearing loss. This term is considered offensive by some Deaf. *Hearing
34. In 1966 R. Orin
Cornett at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. developed this visual
communication method that used eight
handshapes in four different positions along with the natural mouth
movements that occur during speech. *Cued Speech
35. People who feel that being Deaf is
about language and connection to other Deaf people subscribe to what model
or view of thinking about the Deaf? *Cultural
Culture: Deaf Culture consists of the norms,
beliefs, values, and mores shared by members of the Deaf Community.
[Note: The word "mores" is pronounced "mawrays" and is a noun that means
"the essential or characteristic customs and conventions of a community.
"Mores" include the customs, conventions, ways, way of life, traditions,
practices, and habits of a people. - (Google Definitions)]
Deaf with a Capital "D": Refers to being
culturally Deaf. Embracing the cultural norms and values of the Deaf Community.
deaf with a lowercase "d": Refers to
being physically deaf, (not culturally Deaf). Physical "deafness" refers to a level of hearing below which a person
is unlikely to understand speech for everyday communication purposes. For
example, a person's hearing is not sufficient use the phone.
Deaf Community: In general, the "Deaf
Community" consists of those Deaf people throughout the world who use sign
language and share in Deaf culture.
Deaf School: A "Deaf School" is a
state-run residential education institution. State residential schools
for the Deaf are important institutions in the Deaf community. A "Deaf
School" specifically refers to a state residential school. This is different
from a "Deaf program" or a "day program" where students do not live on
Disability Group: Deaf people do not view
themselves as a disability group. Instead we see ourselves as a linguistic
and cultural minority. We are an ethnic group with a shared culture and
bonded together by a common language. (That doesn't mean that there aren't
physically deaf people in the U.S. who consider themselves disabled. There
are indeed many such individuals, but they are generally not fluent in ASL,
did not attend state residential schools for the Deaf, are not married to a
Deaf person, did not attend Gallaudet or a university with a strong
Deaf program, and cannot realistically be considered culturally Deaf,
therefore they are not members of the cultural "Deaf Community."
Dominant Hand: The hand you do most of your signing
DPN stands for Deaf President Now. DPN was both a
campus protest and an international Deaf movement. It took place the week
of March 6, 1988 at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. Elizabeth
Zinser, a hearing woman, had been newly elected president of Gallaudent
University. The students and international Deaf Community demanded and
received a Deaf president: I. King Jordan.
Fingerspelling is also sometimes called "The
American Manual Alphabet." It consists of 22 handshapes that--when held in
certain positions and/or are produced with certain movements-- represent the
26 letters of the American alphabet.
Fonts, ASL: There is a type font that resembles
fingerspelling. It is called Gallaudet (TrueType) and is available for
download from the net.
GA means Go Ahead. This is an abbreviation commonly
used while typing on a TTY (teletype). It means you are done with your turn
and it is the other person's turn to go ahead and type.
Gallaudet, Edward Miner: The youngest Son of Thomas
Hopkins Gallaudet. Dr. Edward Miner Gallaudet was the founder and the first
president of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and the Dumb (Renamed
Gallaudet College in 1893 and renamed again in 1986, Gallaudet University
upon receiving university status) in 1857 in Washington, D.C. He served as a
president from 1864 to 1910. (Source: Gallaudet.com)
Gallaudet, Thomas Hopkins: Born December 10, 1787 in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He entered Yale University at age 14. He
graduated from Yale first in his class three years later, and decided to
join the ministry. Reverend Gallaudet met Dr. Mason Cogswell and his
daughter Alice. Dr. Cogswell persuaded Mr. Gallaudet to travel to England
to study their methods of teaching Deaf students. There Gallaudet met a Deaf
educator, Laurent Clerc, and convinced him to come back to America and help
establish the first American school for the Deaf.
Handedness: Left-handed people sign left-hand
dominant--a mirror image of right handed signers. Left-handed people also
fingerspell with their left hand.
Hearing Impaired: The term "Hearing Impaired" is
not used by Deaf people to describe ourselves. We refer to ourselves as
being Deaf. When referring to all people with a hearing loss we tend to use
the phrase, "Deaf and hard of hearing." Sample of outdated usage: The
Regional Center for the Hearing Impaired." A sample of a current,
appropriate usage: The Regional Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing."
While at one time the phrase "hearing impaired" was considered to be
politically correct, it was an external label applied to Deaf people by
Hearing people. The phase Hearing Impaired was never embraced by the Deaf
Hearing: (Hearing People or Hearies): Non-Deaf people.
Specifically hearing people who are unfamiliar with Deaf Culture, but can
include all hearing people.
Hearing School: The term "Hearing School"
refers to any typical public school. In ASL we sign "HEARING"-culturally
SCHOOL to mean "public school." A "Hearing School" is one at which the main
mode of communication is "speaking."
HoH stands for Hard of Hearing. Also "HH."
HoH people have some hearing loss but can generally use the phone with amplification and can understand
spoken speech depending on a number of factors including: distance, volume,
facial hair, lighting, familiarity with topic, situational cues, accents,
and noise. Thus the environment has a big impact on whether a HoH functions
as a hearing person or a Deaf person.
Hugs: Deaf people tend to hug more than Hearing
IEP stands for Individualized Education Program.
Deaf children are entitled to an IEP.
Interpreter for the Deaf: In the Deaf Community we
refer to terps as "interpreters" not "translators." Also, interpreter is
spelled with "er" not "or." In ASL class discussions, the phrase "interpret"
means to go from spoken English to ASL or from ASL to spoken English.
ITP stands for Interpreter Training Program
Jr.NAD stands for Junior National Association of the
Deaf. This is the youth division of the National Association of the Deaf
Leave-taking: Deaf leave-taking (good-byes) tend to
be extended (take a long time).
Lighting: Lighting and the ability to see
each other is very important to Deaf people. One of the reasons Deaf people
sometimes prefer to hang out in the kitchen is because the lighting is
LRE stands for Least Restrictive Environment. The
question is, what education environment is "least restrictive" for a
child? A residential school for the Deaf, a local school with an
interpreter, a day program, an inclusive charter school, or some other
LSQ stands for Langue des Signes Quιbecois is a
popular signed language used in Canada. Many people in Canada also use ASL.
MCE stands for Manually Coded English. There are
several signing systems designed to portray English on the hands. These
various systems can be lumped under the term MCE, or Manual English, or
Meeting new people: Upon meeting for the first
time, Deaf people tend to exchange detailed biographical information and
describe our social circles in considerable depth.
Movies involving Deaf Characters: Bridge to Silence,
Love is never Silent, Children of a Lesser God, and others.
NAD stands for National Association of the Deaf the
world's oldest Deaf advocacy organization. See www.nad.org
NCI stands for National Captioning Institute. The
NCI was established in 1979 as a nonprofit corporation with the mission of
ensuring that Deaf and hard of hearing people, as well as others who can
benefit from the service, have access to television's entertainment and news
through the technology of closed captioning.
NERDA stands for Not Even Related to a Deaf Adult.
A comical reference to Hearing people who don't have ties to the Deaf World.
NMM: Non-manual markers: Non-manual markers are
facial expressions and body movements. Non-manual markers are used to
inflect signs. That means to change, influence, or emphasize the meaning of
a sign or signed phrase. For example, when asking a question that can be
answered with a "yes" or "no" you raise your eyebrows a bit and tilt your
head forward slightly.
NFSD: The (former) National Fraternal Society of the Deaf.
insurance as well as fraternal and community service activities for Deaf
NTD stands for National Theater of the Deaf. The
NTD is a touring theater group composed of Deaf and hearing actors who
entertain audiences worldwide through music, sign language, and the spoken
NTID stands for National Technical Institute for the
Deaf. NTID is located in Rochester New York and is a popular choice for
Oral / Oralism refers to a philosophy of encouraging
(forcing) Deaf to speak and read lips rather than use sign language.
Pathological or Medical model: People who feel that
being deaf is a problem to be solved subscribe to the "pathological view" or the
"medical model" of deafness.
View of Deafness: Pathological. Pathology (in
general) is the study of disease. The pathological view of deafness is
held by those people (typically in the medical profession) who view being
deaf as a physical ailment or pathological condition that needs to be cured
in order for the individual to enjoy a higher quality of life. This is
opposite the "cultural view of Deafness."
View of Deafness: Cultural. Deaf people don't consider themselves to
have a disease or problem that must be cured in order to have a good life. I took a sign class with me to visit a Deaf
party. Some of my students sat with me in the Deaf circle. I decided to ask
if any of my friends would like to become "hearing." Suppose a magic pill
could be taken and and they would wake up the next morning "hearing." Each
Deaf person said (via signing) NO! My students were shocked. I explained in
class the next day that Deaf people do not consider their condition
pathological. To the Deaf, our deafness is cultural. We do not see it as
"deafness" but rather "Deafhood."
Phrase: "Deaf People Can Do Anything Except Hear."
This is a popular phrase in the Deaf world. Note: Actually, that phrase is
not reflective of reality. The reality is there are many varying degrees of
residual hearing amongst culturally Deaf people. From "profoundly" deaf, to
hard of hearing. (This is similar to the way blind people have varying
degrees of sight. Some see no light at all, but many can see "quite a bit."
Especially with glasses.) You could even argue that some people with
"normal" hearing are culturally Deaf by virtue of having Deaf parents and
having grown up in the Deaf community. I've even visited a charter school
where hearing children were taught alongside Deaf children by Deaf
instructors using ASL.
PSE stands for Pidgin Signed English. Now referred
to as "contact signing." Contact signing is often used when Deaf and hearing
individuals need to communicate. One way to describe it is as a "middle
ground" between artificially invented signed English systems and ASL. PSE
follows English word order while using ASL signs.
Public Law 94-142: Passed in 1975. The goal was to
promote a free and appropriate education for all children.
Relay Service: A relay service allows hearing people
to call deaf, and vice versa. A communication assistant (CA) answers your
call then relay information back and forth between you and a deaf
RID stands for Registry of Interpreters for the
Deaf. The RID is the worlds largest association of interpreters for the
Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The RID conducts and promotes certification of
interpreters for the Deaf. See www.RID.org.
RSC stands for Reverse Skills Certificate.
This is a type of interpreter certification. This
refers to the ability to understand and voice what is being signed.
School for the deaf, or "Deaf School." Refers
to residential schools for the Deaf. Culturally Deaf adults who
attended a Deaf School are proud of that fact.
SEE stands for Signing Exact English. An invented
sign system intended to represent English with the intent to assist deaf
children in the acquisition of English.
SIMCOM stands for Simultaneous Communication. Simcom
is when you sign and voice at the same time. Signing and voicing at the same
time is frowned upon by many Deaf academics and Deaf community leaders.
However, many Deaf individuals "do" use simcom quite a bit -- especially
when in mixed Deaf/Hearing environments.
SK stands for Stop Keying. It is used to end a TTY (teletype) conversation.
It indicates that
you are going to "hang up" or terminate the conversation. SKSK (a double
SK) is a response by the other person that he acknowledges that you are
ending the conversation and that he or she is quitting too.
SSI stands for Supplementary Security Income.
People on SSI receive regular checks from the government to
help pay for basic living expenses.
Stay Deaf: Many, if not most, Culturally Deaf
people if given the chance to become hearing would choose to remain deaf.
Storytelling: The ability to skillfully tell a
story is highly valued in Deaf Culture.
TC stands for Total Communication, a philosophy of
Deaf Education that advocates using signing, voicing, writing, and other
methods of communication.
TTY / TDD stands for "teletype" or Telecommunication
Device for the Deaf. These days it means the same thing as a TTY. In the
old days, a TTY was a huge clunker that required a wheelbarrow to move
around. TTY's shrank in size and people began calling them TDDs or even Text
Telephones but the Deaf Community continues to refer to the devices as TTYs.
Instant Messaging via the net has reduced the use of TTYs.
Uppercase Deaf / Lowercase deaf: While the
uppercase and lowercase spellings of Deaf and deaf have not yet become
standardized in print media, in general the lowercase spelling refers to
being physically deaf while the uppercase spelling refers to someone who has
internalized the language, beliefs, values, traditions, attitudes, manners,
and ways of the Deaf community.
Voicing: Some deaf people never voice. Others
voice as well as a typical Hearing person. Others engage in "selective
voicing." One place you will sometimes see such Deaf people
using voice is with their kids. In the home parents often
need to get their kids attention and voicing
is an easy way to do it. Also the children get used to the voice and can
understand it just fine. Deaf are much less likely to voice to a hearing
stranger. With their kids they feel comfortable, but with strangers we feel
very cautious (as any oppressed group would). We don't tend to voice when
we are talking with another Deaf person. Why voice to other Deaf? Another
reason is we can't use voicing and ASL grammar at the same time. (See Simcom).
It is not appropriate to ask a Deaf person if they can voice.
VP stands for video phone.
"Voc Rehab" stands for "vocational rehabilitation." This is
an important government agency because it helps provide training and
employment assistance to many Deaf people. (As well as others who have one
or more conditions that limit)
* VRS stands for video relay service.
[End of Study Guide]