Rolling Without Limits

Your mobility may be limited. Your voice, boundless.

Deaf Culture, part I
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Deaf Culture, part I

The Deaf community is surely one of the most misunderstood ones on the planet. Since the dawn of time, a person with hearing difficulties has been dubbed as ‘dumb’ or even useless by their societies; and even though this is quite often not the case today since most countries have developed an understanding of differences, the stigma that surrounds Deaf people today is still real and very palpable. Sharing quite a lot of common grounds no matter which culture they are born into, here are some of the aspects that define this community – whether they are good or bad, no matter how each individual deals with it, the impact of these life experiences makes them who they are today.

It is important to note, to begin with, that Deaf people are rarely born into families of the same culture. As a matter of fact, 90% of Deaf children have hearing parents. And, the sad truth is that most of these parents do not bother to learn sign language to ease communication with their own offspring, preferring to let them do all the extremely, unnatural and difficult work of learning to speak and lip-read. Therefore, these kids suffer from an important loss that other children do not live with: the loss of childhood. They spend so many hours with speech therapists, psychologists and various other medical staff that they actually lose the possibility of playing with other children their age and at times, it is their homework time that is taken away from them. Furthermore, the learning of a language through a sense that no longer works well can take several years, and by the time they are finally mature enough to start understanding the language process, it is too late. Skinner states that a child’s language development has to be accomplished by the age of five since between five and seven years old, the section of the brain that handles grammar, syntax, morphemes and phonemes ‘freezes’. If a language has not been fully developed (or, as in most cases of children without disabilities, acquired entirely in a natural way) by that age, a person can still learn to talk or sign, but their mastery of the language will be limited, meaning that their grammar or syntax will always suffer. Some Deaf people are diagnosed as dyslexic or with other forms of language anomalies when in fact, it is this lack of proper childhood development that gave them their language difficulties.

Being stigmatized has created a closeness amongst them that happens quite often in cultural minorities. They meet very often and this is one of the main reasons why sign language developed into what it is today. The need to be able to communicate – after all, the human species is a highly social beast – ensured that they would gather to share, learn together and eventually, start standing up for themselves. The development of this language begot a culture; some say that this is just one culture shared amongst all Deaf people in the world, no matter which country they are born into. However, there are still a few differences, since such a large number of them are born into entirely hearing families, and they end up assimilating the main culture into their sub-culture.

Why are so many Deaf children born in hearing families? The answer is much simpler than most might think: a very high percentage of hearing loss is NOT genetic. If you ask Deaf people, many will tell you how it was a childhood disease or accident that took away their hearing. Some will explain how it is a birthing defect (not a gene) that caused the hearing nerve to deteriorate with time. For only 0.01% of Deafies across the globe, they own a gene in their DNA that ensured they would be born with a ‘natural defect’ of not being able to hear even the whisper of a sound when thunder crashes or jet planes fly overhead at an airport. These children are almost always born into Deaf families, and have an important advantage over all other Deaf children: they actually share their culture with their parents, and they can communicate with, at the very least, their entire immediate family, at times with their extended families (yes, some families have quite a complex Deaf/hearing mix that is interesting to study and learn about). Of course, some Deaf children are born from Deaf parents and only lost their hearing during childhood, and this is another 10% of the Deaf population.

This is only a small portion of what shaped the Deaf community; I will keep writing about them and hope to read many comments on what you know, how you feel about it and what you have learned here. I welcome all comments from Deafies, too!

 

Photo:  my tattoo, which means 'to unite' in sign language.  I had it made to show how as an interpreter, my job bridges gaps between communities.  It has a much wider sense now to me, living in Colombia; I wish to 'close the gap' between many different communities that need to come together to ensure a bright future for everyone.

 

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Leave a Comment

  1. Lil Nana
    Lil Nana
    GREAT article, thank you for sharing, I look forward to reading more
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    1. SignLanguage
      Thanks!
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  2. Teresa Thomas
    Teresa Thomas
    Vote #4. Wow! Excellent blog.... I believe, that I had a cousin that was deaf. I don't remember her name now. It's been such a long time ago since I had last seen her. I don't know of how to find her. Love the art work on the back.
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    1. SignLanguage
      Thanks for the compliment! Most people say the same thing as you: "I have a cousin who's Deaf but I don't see him/her anymore..." They often don't hang out with extended family because most can't communicate with them. Sad, but true.
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  3. pftsusan
    pftsusan
    This is fantastic. Going all the way back to the days of Helen Keller, her family treated her as deaf, blind, dumb and unabled until they were able to get her the teacher she needed. Helen really was very intelligent locked into her mind, until this individual with a calling, came and taught her, hands on, communication. Then she taught her parents to let Helen do for herself. She unlocked a genius waiting to come out.Then Helen was free. She blossomed into a wonder author. Then they named the Perkins School of The Blind after her. So I see what you are doing for the deaf to have communication as an important stepping stone so that all of us are communicating. Would you like me to share this for you on FB?
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    1. SignLanguage
      It's up to you if you want to share!
      Log in to reply.
  4. Lori Emmons
    Lori Emmons
    I love the sign for "to unite! & your tattoo! I wish you had a photo, I think you would have a stronger impact with your audience. Your voice deserves a face to go with it! Vote #5
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    1. SignLanguage
      I'm SnakeWitch on The Flaming Vegan.
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      1. pftsusan
        pftsusan
        I'm surprised!!! Wow! I would love to have you over at our writers group @ https://www.facebook.com/groups/195337217277540/. Your invited.
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        1. SignLanguage
          I just sent a request to get in, and my name is Annie Carbonneau. I already have my own page for tarot readings and writing: Vegan Writer, translator, and Tarot Reader. You can ´like´it if you want!
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  5. Broken English
    Broken English
    Voted. A fascinating and heartfelt blog Annie, well done! I think I can understand the isolation and alienation that a lot of Deaf people suffer from, especially if they are the only deafies in their families. It must be so hard: I always feel like an odd-one-out in my family, I am not very like the rest of them! I am the only vegan/ARA for one thing, and there are other big differences too. I feel a lot closer to my friends than my family, to be honest. That, as you say, is why a sense of community is so important. Looking forward to the next part!
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    1. SignLanguage
      I´m not just the toughie who b***es about animal abusers ;) I have a soft side, too! Welcome to Annie´s other personality! I swear, some people have no idea how to treat me or talk to me because I have such a ´swaying´personality...
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      1. SignLanguage
        And I have to say that becoming vegan was the drop that made the glass overflow when it comes to my parents. I was already the oddball just by learning sign language and vouching for anyone with a difference of sorts - Deaf, handicapped, cultural minority, vegan, environment issues... whatever. YOu name it, I was supporting them. What made my dad become angry - and this is the scariest contradiction I´ve seen so far in my family - is when I started supporting aboriginal rights. My dad´s mum is metis. My dad is embarassed of his aboriginal ancestry... but not me. And I support Idle No More. It must drive them off the wall. I would also like to point out that I got a nose ring long before it was fashionable, and I wear three earrings on my left ear and just one on the right one... just to be the little rebel that I am.
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        1. Broken English
          Broken English
          What is metis? Does it mean mixed-race? So you have Canadian Indian in your ancestry? I can't see what there is to be embarrassed about that! I am like you, I stand up for all people, and creatures who are being oppressed and badly treated. Having been oppressed so much myself, I guess, that has given me compassion.
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          1. SignLanguage
            Yes, metis is half-aboriginal, half-white.
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      2. Broken English
        Broken English
        You sound just like me! I am not a shrinking violet and I think quite a lot of people, particularly men, find me quite intimidating! Even though I am a softie at heart really. I suppose that is one of the drawbacks of being a strong, forthright woman, sigh.....
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        1. SignLanguage
          ahhh, the life of the misunderstood women... !
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  6. Brooke Musterman
    Brooke Musterman
    great article! we have a large deaf community in charlotte. my mother actually got a degree in sign language. love the tat...b
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    1. SignLanguage
      Thanks for the vote and comment !
      Log in to reply.
  7. Shabs Online
    Shabs Online
    This is a very impressive tattoo that explains everything...Great Blog Annie! Alienating someone for this is absolutely not done for it shows our weakness only...the weakness for not being able to generate communication tactics for such people! :( Voted and plz go thru my latest, I posted just now! :)
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    1. Broken English
      Broken English
      Yep, I 100% agree with Shabs there! Please check out my latest blog too when you get the chance, Heather, The One-Legged Model.
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    2. SignLanguage
      Well, things are a lot better now than they were before. Read part II for more info.
      Log in to reply.
  8. dbart
    Love this blog.. this is why I sign worship! I really would love to brush up better on my signing so that I can carry out a better conversation with the deaf.. but for now I can at-least sing & worship in sign with them!
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    1. SignLanguage
      It's a start!
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  9. SignLanguage
    Head's up everyone: part II is now up! Go ahead and read on!
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  10. Ajay
    Ajay
    Waiting for part2... voted...
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    1. SignLanguage
      It's up - in new posts.
      Log in to reply.
  11. Rene
    Rene
    Voted. I had learned a few signs when I was in 9th grade to try & communicate with a deaf girl that was in my class. It didn't go real well. I don't think the girl liked me in the first place... then to try & communicate with her in sign language, needless to say I wasn't great at it & I apologized if I had ever offended her. She was polite & all, but didn't hang around long for any more conversation. lol Signing is not only a language, it is truly an art.
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