y William Vicars, Ed.D.
Sept. 18, 2006
Deaf Culture consists of the norms, beliefs, values, and "mores"*
shared by members of the Deaf Community.
Note: the term "mores" means: "The accepted traditional customs,
moral attitudes, manners and ways of a particular social group."
Culturally Deaf people in America use American Sign Language. We
love to swap stories about Gallaudet University, and the
various state residential schools for the Deaf. We value deaf children and
our Deaf heritage. We hate the thought of anything that would destroy our Deaf world.
We believe that it is fine to be Deaf. If given the
chance to become hearing, most of us would
choose to remain Deaf. We tend to congregate around the kitchen table
rather than the living room sofa because the lighting is better in the
kitchen. Our good-byes take nearly forever, and our hello's often
consist of serious hugs. When two of us meet for the first time we tend to
exchange detailed biographies and describe our social circles in
In general, the global "Deaf Community" consists of those
Deaf and hard of hearing people
throughout the world who use sign language and share in Deaf culture.
Hearing family members, friends, interpreters, and others are also part of
this community to the extent that they use sign language and share in the
As used here in America, the term "Deaf Community" refers to
Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, (along with our families, friends,
and others), who use ASL and who are culturally Deaf. Being culturally Deaf
means sharing the beliefs, values, traditions, moral attitudes, manners, and
ways of the Deaf community.
The Deaf World refers to all "d"eaf-(physically) and
hard-of-hearing people and the people with whom we regularly interact. For
example: teachers of the Deaf, interpreters, audiologists, social workers, religious
workers, parents, siblings, etc. They are all part of the Deaf World
but not necessarily members of the Deaf Community.
Note: Even though I make a distinction here between the Deaf World and the
Deaf Community you can be sure that there are many writers / bloggers who
consider those two terms to be interchangeable. Such individuals use
the term "Deaf World" to refer to Deaf Community. It is a non-issue
really. I'm simply striving to point out that a "community" involves a
degree of sharing and interactivity that is more intimate than a "world."
Some people also use the term "Deaf World" to refer to "all things
experienced by a person who is Deaf" or "the world as experienced by a
Members of the Deaf Community do not consider themselves to
be disabled. They see themselves as a cultural group bonded together by
common experiences and a
common language. Members of this community don't want be be Hearing! If
given a choice the vast majority would choose to remain Deaf!
That doesn't mean that there aren't "d"eaf
(physically not-able to hear) people in the U.S.
who consider themselves disabled. There are indeed many such
individuals, but they are generally not fluent in ASL and are not culturally
Deaf, therefore they are not members of the "cultural Deaf Community."
People who feel that being Deaf is about
language and culture subscribe to the "cultural view" of deafness (or
People who feel that deafness is problem to be solved
subscribe to the "pathological model" or the "medical
model" of deafness.
1. Name two models or ways of thinking about deafness:
2. True or false, "In general, a member of the cultural Deaf Community
would rather remain deaf than receive the ability to hear."
In a message dated 5/29/2007 8:14:00 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time,
I have been reading your section on Deaf culture and have a
question. It says that part of a Deaf person's world are the
teachers, interpreters, parents etc and that these are not part
of the Deaf community but yet it says that those in the Deaf
community are the family and friends of those that are Deaf.
That confused me, are the hearing members and friends of a Deaf
person part of the Deaf community?
If you'll read it again, I think you'll note that I don't say they are
"not a part" rather I use the phrase "not necessarily a part" of the
Just because you have a Deaf brother or a Deaf student doesn't mean that you
participate in his world. It doesn't mean that you have learned ASL well
enough to hold engaging conversations. It doesn't mean that you attend
Deaf events. Being a part of a "community" has to do with experiences and
connections. If you share those experiences and connections then
yes, you are part of the community. If you do not share those
connections and experiences then no, you are not part of the community.
Walking through a neighborhood or being related to someone who lives in
a neighborhood doesn't mean you are a part of the community. But
if you walk through the neighborhood regularly and know the names of
people in the neighborhood and shop at the neighborhood store regularly
-- then you are part of the community.
There is no perfect dividing line. I think of it as a rock dropped in a
pond of water. It creates a series of expanding circles. The strongest
circles are in the middle and they fade out as you move away from the
circle. At the center of the circle are physically Deaf people who have
Deaf parents and are native ASL users. From there you move outward. The
Deaf World is larger than the Deaf Community. The
Hearing members of a Deaf person's family may or may not be part of the
Deaf Community depending on if they choose to learn ASL and get