Deafness can be described in medical terms e.g. mild, moderate, severe or profound or can be described in terms of a cultural identity e.g. I am deaf or I am Deaf (using a capital D).
- When a lower case ‘d’ is used to describe deafness, the person will be using spoken language to communicate rather than a signed language. They are likely to describe their deafness in medical terms, they probably didn’t attend a school for the deaf and they identify with other hearing people. They may consider themselves to be disabled by their deafness.
- When a capital D is used, the person considers themselves to be part of the Deaf community and culture. Being part of the Deaf Community has nothing to do with how medically deaf the person is, it’s about them preferring to use British Sign Language rather than a spoken language. Members of the Deaf community are proud to be deaf and see themselves as a linguistic minority. Deaf Culture describes the social beliefs, behaviours, art, literary traditions, history, values and shared institutions of communities that are affected by deafness and which use sign language as the main means of communication.
Here’s some differences between Deaf and Hearing cultures.
- Pointing is allowed.
- Eye contact is necessary.
- Can ‘talk’ with a mouth full of food.
- Overstaying / long goodbye.
- Long introduction.
- Introductions = who do you know.
- Can discuss money.
- Can discuss bodily functions.
- Information is shared.
- Personal questions are OK.
- If late, explain reasons.
- Be clear if you have criticism.
- Personal remarks show a caring attitude.
- Pointing is rude.
- Eye contact is not necessary.
- Rude to talk with a mouth full of food.
- Short goodbye.
- Short introduction.
- Introductions – what do you do?
- Money is a private subject.
- Bodily functions – taboo topic.
- Gossip is rude.
- Personal questions = nosy.
- If late, don’t attract attention.
- Use ‘sandwich’ approach for feedback.
- If you don’t have anything nice to say ...
British Sign Language is used by 87,000 Deaf people. Many more people (e.g. friends and family) know BSL and are involved in the Deaf community.
All our British Sign Language courses include information on the Deaf Community. We offer several course options from 1 hour bitesize sessions to full day courses in this area. Contact us for details or book a call with us.