Deaf culture has come into its own in recent decades. It has been celebrated on film, on video, and in literature. Still, if you’re new to the deaf world, you still may be a bit puzzled about all that deaf culture entails.
Defining What We Mean
First of all, it is important to define exactly what we mean by the word “culture.” Social scientists say culture is characterized by a set of behaviors practiced by a group of people with their own language, traditions, and values. Culture is based on community, a group of like-minded folks who have common interests, desires, and even coping techniques.
The Critical Component
Perhaps the most critical component of the culture of the deaf is American Sign Language. This language is a source of great pride for people who experience deafness. Among the deaf, mastery of American Sign Language can be seen as a source of solidarity. Good storytelling is also considered important among deaf individuals, for it is in telling their stories that the deaf find solace and strength.
The Marriage Factor
Marriage has also emerged as an important part of the culture of the hearing impaired. It has been said that as many as 90 percent of deaf adults in America marry other deaf people. In many cases, these couples desire a child who is also deaf so that they can hand down their culture to another generation.
As a result of the stigma of mixed marriages, it might be said that the deaf community is often set apart from the rest of society. This should not be considered a form of bigotry, but rather an open admission that the culture of the hearing impaired is markedly distinct from the culture at large. At times, deaf individuals may feel torn between the deaf world and the hearing world — particularly if they were born of hearing parents.
Deaf culture also celebrates the achievement of non-hearing people in the arts and other aspects of American life. As a result, deaf children have a number of role models they can turn to for mentoring and support. The common language of the deaf also provides them with a means of socialization that helps them guard against self-absorption.