September is National Deaf Awareness Month
It’s National Deaf Awareness month, and at HASA, we celebrate and support the deaf community. We are working to increase awareness of Deaf issues, people, and culture. While these topics are fairly complex our goal is to provide an introduction and additional resources for you to learn more during this National Deaf Awareness month and beyond.
Deaf and HoH Community
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is an excellent resource for exploring the complexities of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH) community. The rich diversity within the community is determined by how an individual identifies. First to consider are the variations in how a person becomes deaf or hard of hearing. Next many folks use their level of hearing, age of onset, educational background, communication methods, and cultural identity. Third, how people relate and label themselves is extremely personal. For example, some people believe that the term “people with hearing loss” is inclusive and efficient. However, some people who were born deaf or hard of hearing do not think of themselves as having “lost” their hearing. Therefore, terms have evolved and include the most commonly accepted: “deaf,” “Deaf,” and “hard of hearing.”
The Difference Between Deaf and deaf
The NAD refers to the distinction between Deaf and deaf as “the lowercase deaf when referring to the audiological condition of not hearing, and the uppercase Deaf when referring to a particular group of deaf people who share a language – American Sign Language (ASL) – and a culture.” Further, hard-of-hearing (HoH) can denote a person with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss. It can also represent a deaf person who doesn’t have or want a cultural affiliation with the Deaf community. Individuals can choose an audiological or cultural perspective depending upon their comfort level, mode of communication, and acceptance. However an individual decides to identify, the NAD makes it clear that they welcome all Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and deaf-blind Americans.
The Evolution and Variation of Sign Language
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are more than 200 signed languages used worldwide! Many people do not realize that sign language is not universal. Like spoken language, sign languages develop naturally within countries and communities. Sign languages are fully-realized, complex languages featuring intricate grammar, syntaxes, and vocabularies. Furthermore, sign languages are divergent in countries that share the same spoken language. For example, English has three varieties: American Sign Language (ASL), British Sign Language (BSL), and Australian Sign Language (Auslan). Or consider the Spanish sign languages. Spanish Sign Language (LSE or SSL) is different in Europe and the Americas. For example, (SSL) is used across all of Spain, except in Catalonia which uses Catalan Sign Language (CSL), and Valencia which uses Valencian Sign Language (VSL). Consequently, in Mexico, they use Mexican Sign Language (LSM). Lastly, within a community, there will also be further variations such as the development of Black ASL (BASL) here in the United States.
How To Support the Deaf Community
During National Deaf Awareness Month, we encourage supporting the D/deaf community. Here are some examples:
- Recognize the achievements of deaf people, including famous deaf individuals.
- Learning ASL, even the basics, shows your family, friends, colleagues, and the community that you value their thoughts and feelings. Register here for HASA ASL classes.
- Understand that deaf and HoH individuals are just as capable, able, and intelligent as hearing individuals. While there is a difference between how D/deaf and (HoH) folks communicate, it is not a handicap or disability. Don’t make assumptions, and treat everyone with compassion and equity.
- Shop at Deaf-owned businesses. Your support increases their value and creates a positive economic impact on the community. Here are a few in the Baltimore area:
To learn more: