At the outset of this article I must state that I am a hearing person. I have no qualifications in deaf culture. The aim of this article is to broaden cultural understanding of deafness and break down some of the myths about deafness.
Deaf people cannot talk.
Fact: – Deaf people can talk. They use their hands, not their mouths to communicate. Sign language is a recognized language with its own structure, grammar and tenses. It can convey the same complexity of meaning as spoken language.
All deaf people use the same sign language.
Fact: – Each country has its own sign language. Just as there are many ‘spoken languages’ and many variations within each language. For example people from Scotland and those from America speak English. However they may have difficulty understanding each other. It is the same with sign language. There are some similarities between British Sign Language (BSL) and Auslan, but there are more differences. American Sign Language (ASL) uses one hand to spell words. Often when deaf people meet other deaf from a different country they rely on mime and gesture to communicate. This is the same as the way hearing people who do not share a language try to communicate. Within the international deaf community there is an international sign language. However this is generally only know by deaf people who travel overseas regularly.
The best way to communicate with a deaf person is by writing.
Fact: – Sign language uses a different structure and grammar than written English. Deaf people are very visual. Written English is often confusing to them. It is far better to use gesture and mime.
All deaf people can lip read.
Fact: – Less than half the deaf population can lip-read. Those that can lip read well will understand around 30% of what is said to them. People with accents, moustaches and poor lip patterns are more difficult to understand.
All deaf people have an intellectual disability.
Fact:- There is no relationship between deafness and intellect. As with the hearing population there are some deaf people who have an intellectual disability. Many deaf people attend university and hold responsible positions in business and society,
All deaf people should have a cochlea implant.
Fact:- Many deaf people are against Cochlea implants for deaf children. Again this is because there is no disability in being deaf. Deaf cannot imagine coping with the distraction of noise all day. One deaf woman made an excellent remark in relation to cochlea implants. She wondered what the medical professions’ response would be if she asked that her hearing child be operated on to remove it’s hearing. She is proud to be deaf. Her family is deaf. To her, deaf is normal. Hearing is a not normal in her family. She, like many other deaf, and some hearing people, believes that cochlea implants should never be given to children who are born deaf. Implants are most suited to those who have lost their hearing.
Hopefully this article has awakened your interest in deafness. There are many resources available where you can find more information.