Deaf Culture - Big D Small D

Who Is a Small D in The Deaf Community?

3 girls communicating with american sign language
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One of the first things I learned about deaf culture is that there are "big D" Deaf and "small d" deaf. What is the difference? What makes a deaf person big or small d?

Basic Definition of Big D and Small d d/Deaf

Generally, the "small d" deaf do not associate with other members of the deaf community, strive to identify themselves with hearing people, and regard their hearing loss solely in medical terms.

"Big D" Deaf people identify themselves as culturally deaf, and have a strong deaf identity. The big D deaf tend to have attended schools/programs for the deaf, while the small d tend to have been mainstreamed and/or never attended a school for the deaf. When writing about deafness, many writers will use a capital D when referring to aspects of deaf culture, and a lower case d when speaking solely about the hearing loss, and some just simply use d/Deaf.

Examples of Big D and small d d/Deaf

Someone is totally deaf, can not read lips, and uses sign language. This person is married to a hearing person and does not associate with other deaf people. That person would probably be considered to be "small d" even though they have a total hearing loss and must rely on sign language for communication.

Another person is totally deaf, can read lips, and communicates orally. This person is married to another oral deaf person, and socializes primarily with other oral deaf people.

Despite the person's refusal to use sign language, would this person be considered "small d" or "big D?" In my opinion, I would classify the person as "big D" because of the primary association with other deaf people even though the method of communication is not sign language.

A third person is medically hard of hearing and can talk on the telephone, but chooses to use sign language - ASL - as a key means of communication.

This person also actively participates in the deaf community's organizations and events. He is proud to have a hearing loss. This person would likely be classified as "big D" because of his attitude towards his hearing loss and strong identification with the deaf community.

What am I?

  • I grew up oral. Does this make me small d?
  • I use sign language as a key mode of communication but it is not pure ASL. Does this make me big D?
  • I continue to use oral speech as a key mode of communication. Does this make me small d?
  • Most of my socialization is done in the deaf community. Does this make me big D?
  • I went to hearing schools, but my college years were at deaf colleges. Does this make me big D or small d?
  • When I was younger, I associated mostly with hearing people and even into the early college years, tried to be more "hearing" than "deaf." Does this make me small d?
  • I am only partially culturally deaf. Does that make me small d or big D?

Do you consider yourself to be "big D" Deaf or "small d" deaf? Why? Read people's questions and comments below:

- I am big time small D. I am late deafened. I am struggling to learn ASL as fast as I can. I still live in the hearing world with no deaf people around me. Some day in the not too far off future I will lose the rest of my residual hearing. I strive to be a capital D, maybe some day.

- When I am softball or basketball player or bowler for Deaf sport culture, someone inform to say " Deaf player" Does this make be big D or small d?

- I believed that there's really make no big deal with which "Big D" or even "Small d" as it is really all depends on how Deaf or deaf people would use it in their own ways.

- I am most likely small "D" in the deaf world. Raised and mainstreamed as HOH into the hearing world. Never learned sign language until recently. Then lost my hearing completely 7 mos. ago. Enterred the deaf world. What am I now? I am neither hearing for I could not hear, nor am I part of the deaf world for I could not sign. Hence it made my 6 mos. of in-between world very difficult. Since then, I've obtained a cochlear implant thereby deeming me both hearing and deaf at the same time. Yes, small "D" is me but I am still part of the in between world despite I feel I'm big "D" in between two worlds. What are we since we too experience the same challenges as the deaf world that the hearing does not experience or comprehend?!?

I've worked hard proving the hearing world that although deaf, we CAN still do things.

-Really it does not matter. I believed it does not make any sense no big deal with which "Big D" or "Small d". It's all depends on how Deaf or deaf people would use it in their own ways and for my option I like "D" Deaf because big "D" is proud to be DEAF!

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