What is the Deaf culture?

Deaf culture describes the social beliefs, behaviors, art, literary traditions, history, values, and shared institutions of communities that are affected by deafness and which use sign languages as the main means of communication. When used as a cultural label, the worddeaf is often written with a capital D, and referred to as "big D Deaf" in speech and sign. When used as a label for the audiological condition, it is written with a lower case d.

Members of the Deaf community tend to view deafness as a difference in human experience rather than a disability.
The community may include family members of deaf people and sign-language interpreters who identify with Deaf culture and does not automatically include all people who are deaf or hard of hearing.[4] According to Anna Mindess, "it is not the extent of hearing loss that defines a member of the Deaf community but the individual's own sense of identity and resultant actions." As with all social groups that a person chooses to belong to, a person is a member of the Deaf community if he or she "identifies him/herself as a member of the Deaf community, and other members accept that person as a part of the community."
Deaf culture is recognized under article 30, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Convention 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."

Acquisition of Deaf culture

Historically, Deaf culture has often been acquired within schools for deaf students and within Deaf social clubs, both of which unite deaf people into communities with which they can identify. Becoming Deaf culturally can occur at different times for different people, depending on the circumstances of one's life. A small proportion of deaf individuals acquire sign language and Deaf culture in infancy from Deaf parents, others acquire it through attendance at schools, and yet others may not be exposed to sign language and Deaf culture until college or a time after that.  
Although up to fifty percent of deafness has genetic causes, fewer than five percent of deaf people have a Deaf parent, so Deaf communities are unusual among cultural groups in that most members do not acquire their cultural identities from parents.

Behavioral norms

  • Culturally Deaf people have rules of etiquette for getting attention, walking through signed conversations, leave-taking, and otherwise politely negotiating a signing environment.
  • Deaf people also keep each other informed of what is going on in one's environment. It is common to provide detailed information when leaving early or arriving late; withholding such information may be considered rude.
  • Deaf people may be more direct or blunt than their hearing counterparts.
  • When giving introductions, Deaf people typically try to find common ground; since the Deaf community is relatively small, Deaf people usually know some other Deaf people in common. "The search for connections is the search for connectedness."
  • Deaf people may also consider time differently. Showing up early to large scale events, such as lectures, is typical. This may be motivated by the need to get a seat that provides the best visual clarity for the deaf person. Deaf people may also be late to social events. However, at Deaf social events such as parties, it is common for Deaf people to stay for prolonged periods of time because the solidarity and conversations at social gatherings are especially valued by Deaf people.

Reliance on technology

  • Deaf individuals rely on technology for communication significantly. Devices such as the teletype (known as a TTY, an electronic device used for communication over a telephone line) are rarely used to call other Deaf individuals, but can be used with a TTY relay operator. Video relay service interpreters, and the more updated video phones are often used by deaf people to talk to their hearing friends and family when they are apart.
  • Technology is even important in face to face social situations. For example, when a deaf person meets a hearing person who does not know sign language, he or she often communicates via the notepad on their cell phone. Here, technology interestingly takes the place of a human sense allowing deaf individuals to successfully communicate with different cultures.
  • Social media tends to be of great importance to deaf individuals. Networking sites allow the deaf culture to find each other and to remain in contact. Many deaf people have deaf friends throughout the entire country that they met in online communities. Because the deaf community is so small, for many deaf people, the stigma of meeting others online does not exist.
  • Closed Captioning must be available on a television in order for a deaf person to watch. Conflicts arise when establishments such as restaurants or fitness centers fail to accommodate deaf people by turning on Closed Captioning. Movie theaters often release showings of new movies in closed captioning but at very small rates.
  • Alert systems such as fire alarms and alarm clocks must appeal to different senses in order for a deaf individual to notice the alert. Objects such as vibrating pillows and flashing lights often take the place of the noise-based alarms.
  • Lack of understanding about technological accessibility for the deaf causes conflict and injustice for the deaf community. For example, a significant amount of deaf individuals admit that they are dissatisfied with their banks because of their heavy reliance on telephone banking and lack of assistance to hard-of-hearing individuals.
  • Architecture that is conducive to signed communication minimizes visual obstructions and may include such things as automatic sliding doors to free up the hands for continuous conversation.