Defining Deaf Culture

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Imagine if you were a proud Native-American, or Hispanic and someone said that your culture is not real, that the way you were born is just a disability, and you should change to be more like everyone else. You would probably be quite offended. That is what the Deaf community has had to deal with constantly for the past 40 years because of the social unawareness of much of the hearing community.

90% of all deaf children are born to hearing parents who never thought much about the deaf community (Bat-Chava). That is why in mainstream society, the quality of being deaf is seen as a disability rather than something to be praised. The common view of deafness is that it is simply a person who cannot hear and “is deficient in some way because he or she may not be able to communicate by ‘speaking’ or ‘hearing”, we capitalize on what a deaf person cannot do rather than what they can (“Understanding Deaf Culture”). Carla A. Halpern says:

“We as a hearing people tend to pity deaf people, or, if they succeed in a hearing world admire them for overcoming a severe handicap. We tend to look at signing as an inferior substitute for” real” communication… We applaud deaf people, such as Marlee Matlin who use their voices to show us how far they have come from the grips of their disability” (Halpern).

Though some of the hearing community might take on an unknowingly negative approach on deafness due to a lack of knowledge, for those in the deaf community, their hearing loss is not a burden or a disability, but instead an important component of their identity and culture (Sanger-Katz). Many see being deaf as a positive attribute (Sanger-Katz). The motto belonging to the deaf community is “the deaf can do anything but hear” (“Deaf, not I...

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