Deafness is a condition where people cannot hear, or have hearing that is limited. It can occur as a result of disease, injury or birth defects. It can also occur as a result of hearing loss that happens gradually over time.
Those who identify with the Deaf community, as well as those who have lost their hearing through illness and disease or are born with hearing loss, use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with others. These individuals are members of the Deaf culture and belong to a community with its own rich history, language and value system.
There are two ways to view deafness and Deaf people: The “medical/pathological” model and the “Deaf culture” model. The medical/pathological viewpoint focuses on the negative aspects of being deaf and disregards the many positive attributes and abilities that are shared by Deaf individuals.
The Deaf culture, on the other hand, views deafness as a positive difference in experience rather than a disability that must be fixed and corrected. Individuals in the Deaf culture see their disability as a privilege to participate in a culturally rich and diverse community.
Some of these individuals may have grown up in residential schools for the Deaf, where they were educated in ASL and other aspects of Deaf culture, and then go on to become Deaf adults and form a part of the Deaf community. Those who were mainstreamed into hearing society, and did not participate in Deaf culture, may have a harder time developing a meaningful Deaf identity.
These individuals, like all people, have the right to self-determination. They should be able to choose their own path in life and not be forced into one defined by the “medical/pathological” viewpoint.
This model, while based on misinformed and prejudiced stereotypes, is still the most prevalent way that society views deafness and Deaf people. It is the limiting and damaging view that has kept most Deaf people from being as productive as they could be.
It is important that individuals recognize this and choose to be a part of a Deaf culture that can help them succeed as they move forward in their lives. This will help them avoid becoming the victim of a stigmatized society and allow them to become fully functional members of their communities.
In order to be a part of the Deaf culture, it is important to have a positive attitude towards being deaf and to accept the challenges that come with it. This can be difficult at times, but it is crucial to make the effort in order to get the most out of the experience.
When you do, you will be able to feel more comfortable with your own identity and be more able to communicate effectively. This can lead to greater satisfaction and happiness in your life.
As a member of the Deaf culture, you can be proud of your language and your heritage, which will enhance your life. This can give you the strength to take on whatever challenges you face.