Open (Or Squint) Your Eyes
Below is a video of this blog with American Sign Language interpretation. Scroll down for the written blog.
What is diversity? What is culture? We talk about these words a lot, and we defend them all the time. We oftentimes are defending our skin color, history, country, language, or more.
Did you know that there is a culture centered around people that are deaf? Did you realize that this culture is often not generational? It’s often isolating during childhood. Many people don’t know that 90% of deaf children are born to hearing families, and almost none of those families will learn American Sign Language (ASL). If you meet a deaf person, this might explain their English level skills and why the average deaf adult reads at a fourth-grade level. While being part of the disability community, being deaf is an “invisible” condition, often making it hard for society to label it as diverse or marginalized. The problem with not recognizing the culture and marginalization within the Deaf community takes away from how we’re able to understand and empathize with deaf youth. So, what differences are there in Deaf culture?
Let’s talk about language
Did you know there are words specific to deaf culture? One you may have heard of recently from an Apple production is CODA, also known as a child of a deaf adult. That’s what I am, a hearing child born to two deaf parents—and a reminder that being deaf is not always generational! There are also things like spelling deaf with a capital “D” if you identify and embrace the Deaf culture and the community versus spelling deaf with a lowercase “d” if you are deaf and took on more of a hearing identity or mainstreamed with hearing culture. Deaf culture has language and even different dialects within regions in every country. We even call it an accent based on the various signing styles of individuals. You see, ASL is not English; it’s not written the same way. You may think that because it’s translated easily. However, ASL has sentence structure and grammar that you would likely find difficult to understand if you were communicating with a deaf person. This is just the surface of the differences between the hearing community and deaf culture.
I challenge you to open your eyes to a perspective that very well is invisible to you. There are deaf individuals you may see every day and not give a second thought. The deaf community lives in a different world than you, with its unique culture and norms, even though they may seem typical. Once opening your eyes, you are exposed to a new, unimaginable perspective.
So, why talk about this?
I’m bringing this to light because our upbringing, language, and culture set up the trajectory of our lives. Unfortunately, the disability community, especially the deaf community, gets left out of the conversation we’re trying so hard to start. I’m not willing to let them be forgotten—This is why I’ve joined love is respect’s Youth Council. They are dedicated to providing education to marginalized communities. The marginalization, the unintentional harmful pity, and the culture led to vulnerabilities that impact relationships, access to education on boundaries, consent, and the relationship spectrum. Worst of all, it creates a gap in the culturally competent resources to prevent or leave an abusive relationship.
Love is respect is an inclusive platform with resources for youth in the deaf community. Although these resources exist, more personal blogs such as this one help educate the deaf community about relationship violence. Even better, they’re accessible.