Deaf culture. Notice that I spelled it with a big “D.” There are people who are deaf, and then there are people who are Deaf. There’s a difference; the oral deaf tend to either live part-time in both Deaf and hearing worlds or live mainly in the hearing world. The manual deaf (those who sign most or all of the time) live in the Deaf world. You will find those who were oral-deaf in the past who have aligned themselves within the Deaf world because it is easier to be in than the hearing world and have a better quality of life in it. You will even find sign language interpreters who identify with Deaf culture for various reasons.
The Deaf world has its own set of social behaviors, values, literary works, art, history, and so on. People in the Deaf world tend to view deafness as simply a different way of existing rather than a disability. It is also a source of identity, just as being German, American, Jewish, Native American would be. Deaf culture is identified as such under Article 30, Paragraph 4 of the UN Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states that “Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture.”
Deaf people have picked up Deaf culture through schools for the Deaf and Deaf social clubs. People become Deaf culturally at various times in their lives, and may even move in and out of the Deaf World because of changing circumstances in life. Deaf culture is unique in that it is a culture where people for the most part don’t “inherit” the cultural palette from their parents; only an estimated 5% of the Deaf population would pick that up from their parents. It seems like this is a case of where the vast majority of the members of the Deaf world are “break-aways” rather than followers of a centuries-old culture like Hispanics, Native Americans, Japanese, and so on. First generations of deaf people being repeated over and over, I would say.
Just as there is no one sign language understood by all, there is also no one Deaf culture around the world. You will find similar diversity within the Deaf world because of different sign languages, histories, cultures, and so on, as you would find in the hearing world. It helps to learn the values, beliefs, and behavioral norms as a place to start, which helps with the transition into the Deaf world.
Deaf culture relies significantly on advanced technology relative to the hearing world. The hearing world has TVs, telephones, radios, auditory alarms. This means that TVs have to have captioning. Texting isn’t necessary for hearing people, but is critical for deaf people today. Radios, what can we do with them? Auditory alarms have to be replaced with visual alarms. Also, computers need to be equipped with web cameras rather than just a microphone for normal phone conversations over the Internet.
Have you encountered other Deaf outside of your own Deaf culture?