What It's Like...

Being Deaf

Imagine, being called less than, disabled, or handicapped. How about “if I scream maybe they can hear me,” or maybe, “you can talk?” 

Worst of all, imagine the words “you're smart for a deaf person.” Imagine being 14-18 years old attending a mainstream high school, and every time someone wants to communicate with you, they over-exaggerate everything they say as if you may suddenly hear them. People yelling abnormally loud to try and communicate, or even the obnoxious slowing down the facial movements and the sounding out of words, as if the almost adult is a kindergartener who can't read. These are all valid struggles of the deaf population. As defined by Webster's Dictionary, culture is "the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also, the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time." Deaf culture is culture, not a disability.

Deaf culture provides a safe haven and home in a community of other deaf people. Deaf culture has values, morals, arts, music, literature, manners, and everything else other cultures have. Many people, with good intentions, can offend deaf people with the way they speak other than just how they move their lips. Suggesting cochlear implants is one of them. Many, if not most deaf people enjoy their culture. It's theirs. Don't try and take it away from them. Already, many deaf students are forced to learn to lip read or get implants so they can accommodate to the speaking culture. Point is, they shouldn't have to. It is the same thing as telling a Mexican/ Spanish girl she cannot celebrate her quinceañera because she must accommodate her culture to someone else's.

America is known to be the great melting pot of all cultures and traditions to be celebrated, not looked down upon. Deaf culture, while very welcoming, values not speaking. So to force a deaf person to speak to communicate with you is uncalled for. It is demeaning to their very culture. It is evidently the same as forcing a Muslim woman to take off her burqa or her hijab, a part of her culture which is valued, just to please someone apart from the culture. To demolish a person's sense of security and belonging to make things easier for oneself is inconsiderate. Deaf people have the right to deaf culture.

As many people know, American Sign Language, the official language of the American deaf culture, beyond lack of hearing, is what unifies the deaf. To be involved in the deaf culture, learning ASL is crucial. This welcoming society share values such as the following: The deaf people rely on different aspects of life than the speaking community does. Deaf cultural society relies on ASL, vision, captions, videophones/relay services, interpreters, social activities, and vibration alert systems. The speaking community relies on speech, volume, cell phones, sound alerts, speakers, and of course, dialogue. These are obviously the most evident differences of the cultures, but there are many more less obvious differences, like manners and morals. Many people wonder why the deaf aren't always “politically incorrect,” and that's because everything they observe is directly from appearance. The deaf culture places there pointer finger between their eyebrows and taps lightly to sign "Hindu." This could be seen as racially stereotyping to many speaking people, but how else do you describe someone's appearance just by looking at them? Many speaking people often observe this act as immoral or rude. Another not-so-obvious difference in culture is body movement and expression. To a hearing person, this may seem over the top or weird, but this is how the deaf communicate expression without volume, and it becomes natural to them. Though the cultures can be very different, the cultures go hand in hand. They both share emotion, friendship, love, compassion, fear, hatred, anger, sadness, and many others. They are just displayed to one another differently.

All in all, being deaf is not a disability, and that needs to be recognized. Deaf people want to have deaf culture. Hearing people should integrate deaf culture into our own. The hearing population shouldn't ask the deaf to compromise culture to their own, and deaf culture should become better recognized as a culture, not a problem that needs solving. Now imagine those hurtful words: less than, disabled, handicapped. How do you feel now?

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