Deaf Culture Defined

Values & Norms

Deaf Culture
describes the social beliefs, behaviors, art, literary traditions, history, values and shared institutions of communities that are affected by deafness and which use sign languages as the main means of communication.

        When used as a cultural label, the word deaf is often written with a capital D, and referred to as "big D Deaf" in speech and sign. When used as a label for the audiological condition, it is written with a lower case d.           
        The community may include family members of deaf people and sign-language interpreters who identify with Deaf culture and does not automatically include all people who are deaf or hard of hearing.  According to Anna Mindess, "it is not the extent of hearing loss that defines a member of the Deaf community but the individual's own sense of identity and resultant actions."  As with all social groups that a person chooses to belong to, a person is a member of the Deaf community if he or she "identifies him/herself as a member of the Deaf community, and other members accept that person as a part of the community."

Values and Beliefs
        *A positive attitude toward being deaf is typical in Deaf cultural groups.

        *The use of a sign language is central to Deaf cultural identity. Oralist approaches to educating deaf children thereby pose a threat to the continued existence of Deaf culture. Members of Deaf communities may also oppose technological innovations like cochlear implants and hearing aids for the same reason.

        *Culturally Deaf people value the use of natural sign languages. Note that spoken English, written English and signed English are three different symbolic systems for expressing the same language.

        *Deaf communities strongly oppose discrimination against deaf people.

        *Deaf culture in the United States tends to be collectivist rather than individualist.

Behavioral Norms
        *Culturally Deaf people have rules of etiquette for getting attention, walking through signed conversations, leave-taking, and otherwise politely negotiating a signing environment.

        *Deaf people also keep each other informed of what is going on in one's environment. It is common to provide detailed information when leaving early or arriving late; withholding such information may be considered rude.

        *Deaf people may be more direct or blunt than their hearing counterparts.

        *When giving introductions, Deaf people typically try to find common ground; since the Deaf community is relatively small, Deaf people usually know some other Deaf people in common. "The search for connections is the search for connectedness."

        *Deaf people may also consider time differently. Showing up early to large scale events, such as lectures, is typical. This may be motivated by the need to get a seat that provides the best visual clarity for the deaf person. Deaf people may also be late to social events. However, at Deaf social events such as parties, it is common for Deaf people to stay for elongated amounts of time, for the solidarity and conversations at social gatherings are valued by Deaf people.




Presentation Culture