Deaf Culture #14

All deaf people use Hearing Aides?

This is false.  If you have such a profound hearing loss that only the loudest of noises (think close range jumbo jet), a hearing aid would be completely ineffective.  Deaf people can have an extremely wide range of hearing loss, from very little, to profound.  Sometimes the hearing loss is so complicated that a hearing aid would be of no use.  Also, some people prefer not to wear them.  There is a certain amount of stigma related to hearing aids, and many people would prefer to deal with their hearing loss, than to deal with the repercussions of that stigma.  The bottom line is that it is personal preference as much as medical necessity.

Cochlear Implant usage is on the rise in the Deaf Community?

This is, unfortunately, true.  It is unfortunate, not because of the technology itself, but what it means for Deaf Culture.  As technology advances, cochlear implants are becoming better and smaller.  As we know, 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents.  Those parents are more likely to opt for the Cochlear Implant in order to bridge the social, cultural, and physical chasm that exists between their child and themselves.  These two facts have led to an increased number of children being implanted.  Formerly, these children would drift towards the deaf culture as a way of assimilating with others who understood them.  Now, with all of the advances in implantation, these children identify more with the hearing community than the Deaf.  This is leading to a decline in both the number of individuals in the Deaf Community, as well as the number of individuals who have use for ASL.

Cochlear Implants are a miracle fix for someone with a hearing loss?

Here is a little known fact about Cochlear Implants: in most C.I. patients (especially those implanted later in life), use of their implant causes an intense headache.  There is nothing miraculous about having a headache every time you make use of your “cure”.  Many people think that once a person has a cochlear implant, they will hear the same sounds as a person who has no hearing loss.  This is false.  The C.I. allows for “sensations” that are then translated into meaning.  It is like learning to detect sounds with your kneecap and calling that “hearing”.  There is no “miracle fix” for someone with hearing loss, there are simply adjustments that are made.  It is up to the individual whether those adjustments steer them towards the Hearing world, or the Deaf world.

Capital “D” Deaf means that the person attended a residential program, uses American Sign Language, and feels like they are a part of the Deaf Community?

We have discussed previously what the term Deaf means to an individual.  It is an identity, not a label.  It is not uncommon to hear of a person with profound hearing loss, who is extremely active in the Deaf Community, and an advocate for all things Deaf, to be referred to as “Big D Deaf”.  The capital D is the primary indicator of self-acceptance.  The Deaf individual is not looking to change him or herself, and is unwilling to let anyone else change them.

Lower case “d” deaf means that the person most likely attended a mainstream program, may use ASL or some form of it, and also may use amplification devices?

The lower case “d” indicates a medical diagnosis.  The person that identifies with the hearing world, and sees being deaf as a handicap that is to be fixed.  The deaf individual usually wants to be known as something other than deaf, whereas a Deaf individual is, first and foremost, Deaf.





Deaf Culture #7

The signs for male “gender” are:

The “masculine” area of the face is near the forehead.  There are mixed theories on the reason for this, some saying that it is because men tend to be taller than women, and others say that it starts with the sign for “boy” (resembling the brim of a baseball cap), and continues from there.

The signs for female “gender” are:

The “feminine” area of the face is near the chin.  There are also mixed theories regarding this, some saying (you guessed it!) that it is because women tend to be shorter than men, and others say that it starts with the sign for “girl” (resembling a tied bonnet string), and continues from there.

A person’s signing space is:

Generally, a person’s signing space is from the waist to the top of the head.  This gives ample room to set up the different 3-D elements of ASL.  As with anything else, signing space can vary somewhat from person to person.  Some of this is due to personal comfort, and others because of the type of signing that they are doing.  If you are on stage, signing for a large crowd, your signs and your signing space will be much larger.  Conversely, if you are signing on a TV or computer with a limited screen, having an intimate conversation, or signing with someone who has a limited field of vision, your signing space would be smaller.

The signs for niece and nephew are:

“Niece” and “nephew” are initialized, as are “cousin”, “aunt” and “uncle”.  These are also great examples of the gender division on the face, as gender is specified (and therefore the correct English word is chosen) by the signs location.

Which word is a natural gesture (Book, Train, Plane, Bike)?

If you didn’t know ASL, which gesture would you use in a game of Charades?  If you are like most people, you probably chose “book”.  The sign for book is “iconic”, meaning that it is a visual representation of an actual book.  You are miming opening a book to begin reading, which makes this a natural gesture.  Other examples include: “phone”, “listen”, “baseball cap”, and “hair”.

Deaf Culture #4

Cochlear Implants are widely accepted by the Deaf community?

This is false, but it can be a confusing issue.  While people with Cochlear Implants are widely accepted in the Deaf community, the decision to implant yourself or your child is not accepted.  The practice of getting an implant is rejected because of what it represents.  The Deaf community views being Deaf as a privilege, something to be celebrated, and an implant shows just how far a person (or their parents) are willing to go to not be “different”.  The Deaf community sees the implants as someone trying to become part of the hearing population, and thus rejecting the Deaf community.  This is because, in most cases, the parents (usually Hearing) decided to have their child implanted at a young age, before they could make the choice themselves.  This is perpetuated by the fact that most doctors do not inform hearing parents of the supports that can be found within the Deaf community, or the successes of someone who uses ASL.  Instead, they offer a “cure” for deafness.  Often, the Deaf see implanting children as taking away their choice, forcing them to be hearing and never letting them experience Deafness.

“Sound and Fury” is an excellent documentary about this very issue that can give you a better insight into the thoughts, feelings, and even politics, behind this controversy.


Deaf people do not consider themselves as handicapped?

True!  As previously stated, being Deaf is a badge of honor.  In almost every city that houses a Deaf community, you will also find a Deaf Club.  This is a place for Deaf to gather to celebrate their deafness, make friends, air complaints, even hold events such as campouts, bowling and card tournaments, or fundraisers.  The pride in being Deaf even goes so far as to be proud when it is continued for another generation.  As strange as it may sound, while hearing parents anxiously await the results of the infant hearing test, praying that it’s positive, Deaf parents generally feel the opposite, hoping that their child is Deaf.  A common phrase in the community is “I can do everything except hear.”  Deaf children are taught to be proud of themselves, and to see their differences as a benefit, rather than a hindrance.


Gallaudet University is the only liberal arts college for the deaf?

True! Gallaudet University is a federally chartered establishment located in Washington, D.C. and is named for Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, one of the founding fathers of Deaf education in the US.  The school was established in 1857 as a grammar school and was given the ability to grant college degrees by Congress in 1864.  It wasn’t until 1986 that it’s name was officially changed from the “Columbia Institution for the instruction of the Deaf and Dumb” to “Gallaudet University”.

Today Gallaudet University houses approximately 2,000 students both here and abroad, and, while Graduate Studies are open to Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Hearing students, only 5% of the incoming undergraduates accepted may be Hearing.  As such, Gallaudet University remains the only university in the world to teach exclusively to the Deaf community.


The huddle in football was invented by deaf football players?

Interestingly enough, this is true!  The quarterback of the Gallaudet University football team in 1892, Paul D. Hubbard, invented the huddle.  Hubbard realized that using Sign Language to communicate the teams plays could be understood by the opposing team, especially because they often played other Deaf teams.  He created the huddle as a way to communicate to his teammates while shielding their plans from the other team and the spectators.


The Deaf community believes they can do anything except hear?

This is true.  As previously stated, deafness is not seen as a disability.  Because of this belief, most self-imposed limits have been dissolved and, consequently, success rates for the Deaf have risen.  The Deaf have become very adept at problem solving to overcome any obstacles that are put in their way.  The biggest obstacle that is currently being attempted is convincing the general population that the Deaf community is as able as they believe themselves to be.

Deaf Culture #1

Is American Sign Language universal?

A common assumption about American Sign Language is that it is universal. This is, in fact, false. Just as spoken language has many variations, so does sign language. Many of the variations are members of related families of languages and many are independent of any other influences. Some of the major languages include American Sign Language, British Sign Language, and French Sign Language (LSF, or Langue des Signes Française).

While spoken American English and British English are similar enough that communication is not obstructed, the sign languages are different. Words, the alphabet, and grammar can all vary between different sign languages. Just as a hearing American who has never learned French is unable to understand a French speaker, a deaf American who knows ASL would not be able to understand LSF. Many signs in ASL were derived originally from LSF, but from mixing with local signs, the languages are now different.

Often, communities of Deaf people develop their own dialects and local slang, which can evolve into differences in the language. Every year, words are added to our dictionaries as they crop up and become popular, and sign language grows and changes, too.

Can deaf people drive?

Recently on YouTube, a video was posted of a dog that had been trained to drive a car. Porter, “The World’s First Driving Dog” carefully tours a track, steering the vehicle with his tongue hanging out and tail wagging. Fortunately, Porter isn’t on the open road, because he might cause accidents, which is a common misconception about deaf people.

Studies suggest that deaf people are actually often better drivers better than the hearing. Deaf people, because their other senses have adapted to a lack of hearing, are more visually alert than hearing people. The flashing lights on fire trucks and police vehicles are enough of a signal for a driver to be aware, even if he or she cannot hear the sirens.

Besides, if a deaf person shouldn’t drive because he or she may not be able to hear sirens, what about people that crank their music up so loud that they can’t hear over the bass? And those people don’t have adapted senses to work in their benefit!

What is the average reading level for a deaf person?

Reading is an essential part of most of our existences. In school, at work, or even for recreation, we read. Most deaf people read at a 3rd or 4th grade level. This is mostly attributed to the inability to connect letters with sounds. Since young deaf people are unable to hear the sound attached to each letter, disconnect results in a lack of ability to read well.

Other studies suggest that a deaf person trying to learn to read English is just as hard as a hearing person trying to learn the written version of another language. ASL is a separate language from English, and following all of the complexities and idiosyncrasies of spoken English is challenging enough, let alone learning the written version.

Unfortunately reading a 3rd or 4th grade level has implications. Newspapers are usually written at about a 5th grade level, or much higher, making them just barely accessible to many deaf people. Subject matter, as well as vocabulary will be more challenging the higher the reading level is, preventing comprehension and learning. Not being able to read also obstructs employment. Most jobs require at least some reading, so any challenging reading material will be a struggle.

ASL stands for?

American Sign Language.   As a visual language, ASL is a language, independent of English, for deaf people to communicate. ASL is a force that has helped empower many people that were, and often still are, considered deaf and dumb. From everything to signaling basic needs, to composing poetry and stories, ASL helps keep a culture unified. ASL has its own grammar, and is a living language that continues to change as it grows and develops. ASL is made up of gestures, body language, facial expressions, and space around the body to describe places and people that are not present.

Do deaf people have their own personal interpreter?

There are not nearly enough interpreters for each deaf person to have their own. Besides, deaf people do not always need an interpreter. For when they do, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, requires that all businesses open to the public must provide accommodations for people with disabilities. While deaf people mostly prefer not to be seen as disabled, this part of the act does protect their rights.

When a deaf person makes it known that he or she is in need of an interpreter, the organization must provide one, with no cost to the deaf person. Businesses can often seek interpreter networks to find a certified, professional interpreter. On the date and time the interpreter is needed, businesses can schedule an interpreter, or, if the appointment, meeting, etc. is longer than two hours, two interpreters. Interpreting can be pretty mentally exhausting, so sometimes alternating, or having a backup is necessary.

Since interpreters need to make a living as well, they can schedule interpreting for many different people at different times, rather than just being restricted to interpreting for one person. However, if a business is known to use a particular interpreter network, the deaf person can often request particular interpreters. This can allow the interpreter and deaf person to form a relationship which can lead to better understanding. And good, understandable communication is a right we all deserve.

Changing Times = Changing Signs!

First, we’re back! August was a bit of a vacation month with exciting things happening at ASLdeafined, which you’ll be hearing about via our upcoming newsletter and blogs. Meanwhile though, did you know that American Sign Language, just with any other language, changes over time? This can really Jargogle people, especially first time learners. But wait… JARGOGLE? That is an obsolete English term meaning “To confuse, jumble.” Sure, just when you learned the original sign for Australia, which referenced the traditional Australian cattle hat that many from that country wear, you find out it has since been changed to something resembling kangaroos! WHY? Well, for starters, times change. Just like the spoken word contains vocabulary that is later considered offensive, so does sign language. Often some of the now defunct terms focused on facial features associated with a specific group or cultural stereotype. Besides that, people are always evolving and coming up with new and creative ways to express themselves.

So hey! Why not change with the times and learn the latest in ASL by visiting our Website and learning some fresh words today? Not sure what those are? Comment on this post and we’ll see what we can do about adding some content to address the fun side of ASL with slang and other emerging signs.

American Sign Language (ASL) Connection to the Girl Scouts of America

Happy New Year to all of you, and with that wish, may each of the 365 days in 2012 hold some special meaning for each of you; a phone call from a friend, or family member, or a word of good cheer while you are waiting in a long line of cranky people.  May each day contain something positive from which you can take to grow into an even grander person than you already are.

While visiting my relatives in Atlanta, Georgia, for Christmas, I decided to take them along for a beautiful tour of Savannah.   It was a spectacular time filled with historical information, good food, and lots of laughter, all contributing to a very memorable Holiday.

As we toured the Historical District of Savannah, I recalled something I had learned as a student of American Sign Language, regarding a woman who was deaf, who not only lived in Savannah, but she was also the Founder of the Girl Scouts of America.   Her name was Juliette Gordon Low.  Not only was she born in Savannah, but her house is still there.  This is also the very spot where the Girl Scouts held their very first meeting.

There’s one very familiar quote of Juliette’s call to her sister:  “Come right over!  I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all America and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight.”  This quote appeared in a brochure I picked up at the house during our tour of the city.

I am sure many of you who are former (or current) members of the Girl Scouts can recall seeing the American Sign Language alphabet in your Girl Scouts manual.

To my knowledge, Juliette was born with a severe ear infection which left her deaf in one ear.  Then, when she married, a piece of rice punctured the eardrum of the opposite ear, leaving her completely deaf.  Juliette’s birth place, and her life-long home, continues to be beautifully preserved in Savannah, Georgia, by the Girl Scouts of America.

[polldaddy poll=5804389]



Do You Know What Jonelle is Saying?

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Jonelle is one of our teachers at ASLdeafined.  She is the 5th generation of deaf in her family.  She is a very talented young lady.

Now, can you figure out what Jonelle is saying?  Some of you may have a difficult time because of the fingerspelling.  However, the more you practice, the more you will improve over time.  If you need more practice, we provide a huge amount of activities and practice opportunities on our website.  Each lesson consists of 15 themed vocabulary words, along with four activities for retention.  Additionally, we offer practice activities for  fingerspelling, ASL grammar, ASL dictionary with over 9,000 + videos, ASL culture, non-manual markers, facial expressions, classifiers, and much more.