Being Accepted by the Deaf Community

It is Not Automatic

A forum member with a hard of hearing child expressed her frustration with what she perceived as a lack of support from the Deaf community. Other forum members responded with experience and advice:

"I am the hearing mother of a severely hard of hearing 5 year old girl. About 6 months ago I searched the web for help with a difficult decision my husband and I had to make. I searched chat rooms for help and entered a room. There was no 'Hi' or 'welcome,' just 'are you Deaf?', i responded 'No i am not but my daughter is severely hoh.' At that point i was completely ignored and was basically shunned. All i wanted was someone that was Deaf or HOH to help me. I wanted someone to tell me what they wished their parents had did and what they thought about different schooling options. I couldn't get any help from those that were going through what my daughter was. It hurt me and why also doesn't the Deaf community accept HOH as one of their own in their culture. Does my daughter have to look forward to not being accepted into the Hearing culture because she does sign and speech and not accepted into the Deaf community because she hears at 85 dB and not profoundly Deaf at 90? Tell me, is that fair to her, me, or you because the hearing and Deaf community will be at a great loss with out my beautiful, caring, and smart child."
BURKEYGIRL

"You are confusing two different things: Deaf and deaf. Being Deaf (with the big "D") refers to being a member of the Deaf community, regardless of the degree of hearing loss. Being deaf (little "d") refers strictly to the decibel amount of hearing loss.

There is no reason why your daughter (or you) can't be accepted into the Deaf community, but first, you have to understand it. "Severely hard of hearing" in the hearing world means "can't hear very well" while in the Deaf world, it means "hears pretty well". It all comes down to culture. If you or your daughter want to be accepted in the community, you have to learn what Deaf people value, what they don't like and rules of behavior. Then interact with them. Don't get discouraged because people in a chat room didn't realize that you want to help your daughter.

Deaf people are still people and do make mistakes.
DEAFLIZZARD

"I know the dilemma you were faced with, and unfortunately, there are many Deaf(those who have Deaf pride and sign ASL) who do not trust or want much to do with people who do not share their Deaf identity.

But, there are some young folk in the deaf community who do have Deaf pride identity, and are not rude and prejudice towards hearing or oral deaf people.

My son had a profound hearing loss. We used signed English with speech until he was 10. Signed English is not the accepted sign of the Deaf culture crowd...it must be ASL.

My son asked to learn how to speak and speech read better, rejecting sign because he said no one understands his sign language...meaning the hearing kids in the neighborhood. He attended a program for the hearing impaired, in which the kids used signed English, but he only was able to socialize with them at school. Here in our community, he saw the neighborhood kids who did not know or use sign...this was not what he wanted! He wanted to be able to converse with everyone, not just the kids at the school 35 miles away. So, we found a school where he could learn to speak and speech read better.

Now my son is 20, and doesn't sign at all unless he meets a deaf person who signs. He is happy being able to communicate with everyone! He was mainstreamed for high school, and made many hearing friends. He taught hearing friends about deafness, as many of them had never met a deaf person before...it was a great experience for him and his classmates.

Without his hearing aids, he couldn't hear anything at all.

Yet, because he is an oral deaf person, he is one that would not be accepted by "most" within the Deaf community...however, if he were to take the time to become fluent in American Sign language, which is not signed English, then he would be accepted. Being accepted by those who have Deaf pride means you must learn their language, otherwise "most" from the Deaf culture won't pay you attention.

My son recently chose to have a cochlear implant, which has enabled him to hear many things he has never heard! He is very happy with the implant, however, again, this is a form of euthanasia according to many of the Deaf. These folk believe there is nothing wrong with not being able to hear, that it is a special way of being, and they really frown on that deaf who, first don't use American Sign language, or second, are oral, and thirdly, who do things such as obtain a cochlear implant...all of these things, in their eyes it means the deaf person is ashamed of their deaf way of being, and that they are trying to be "hearing."

The thing is, many hearing people if given the opportunity to learn from a deaf person, are very accepting and accommodating to that person, much more so than many from the deaf culture crowd.

I too, am a hearing mother, and I too, have dealt with some rude Deaf pride people who think I have brainwashed one of their own, my son, into being a "hearie."

But, what they don't realize is that my son's generation and your daughter's are being reared with a more inclusive attitude, and they have opportunities and choices that the previous generation did not. There are fantastic hearing aids out there now, and cochlear implants which are helping more deaf and hoh children with their education...these kids are being reared and educated right along with their hearing peers, and they grow up not being suspicious of their hearing peers, and the hearing peers are growing up with an understanding of their deaf peers.

My son doesn't understand these Deaf pride people. He would be happy to befriend ASL users, and would gladly learn ASL to communicate with them, not because he had a "need" to be one of them in the sense of Deaf pride. He instead understands individual pride, irregardless of one's hearing status! Many kids, hearing and deaf that my son knows, feel the same. Unfortunately, because he worked hard to learn speech, and is oral, he will most likely not be accepted by those with Deaf pride. He says, that is their problem.

So, things aren't as cut and dry as you think though...if you want your daughter to feel she belongs to the Deaf culture...easy answer...just rear her under the American Sign language, so that she is fluent in that language. Then she will be accepted by the few who follow this culture.

Or,rear her to understand spoken English, and give her the opportunity to be educated with hearing people, knowing that as an adult, hearing people are the majority of people she will be going to college with, and working with.

She won't be suspicious towards the hearing, and her life will be an example to the many hearing she encounters, that she is just as capable, if not more so, to do anything she puts her mind to...just as any person is, deaf or hearing.

Finally, because more deaf people are becoming oral because of the new hearing aids, mainstreaming in education, and cochlear implants, with the promise of hair cell regeneration just around the corner, signed language, be it signed English, or American Sign language will not take the presence it still somewhat has, because there won't be a need for it, as so many thousands of deaf are already showing.

So, trust me when I say, your daughter won't be left out of the hearing world, my son isn't! Many of his friends aren't! They are comfortable and feel every bit a part of their family and community as any of their hearing friends. The irony is though, the Deaf culture crowd are purposely excluding fine people like yourself, your daughter, and my son, all because of the love of a language they fear is going to be extinct. They are missing the point completely...it's not the language, as my son says...whether one hears or doesn't, whether one signs or doesn't doesn't matter to him...it's what is in the heart that counts."
PATTYB7

"I'm a late Deaf, grew up hard of hearing, and now teach ASL. You'll find that most of us don't "bite," but some you encounter will be rude and cold to you. Just like the hearing community, the Deaf community also has its share of those kind of people. What you will find in our community also is compassionate, warm hearted, fun loving people who desire to break down barriers that separate the two worlds."
CASPER9901

"Putting myself in your shoes, I'd contact all "local" deaf schools about getting in touch with other parents. They've been there; most doctors and other professionals have not. Also, ask your daughter what she feels.... does she prefer signing, speaking, or is she happy doing both? And periodically ask her again and again, as her preference will likely change over time. Keep in mind that signing and speaking are not mutually exclusive. As I've been learning ASL over the past year, I've seen where the two are in fact quite complementary.

As for the cold shoulder, don't worry about it. From my experience most members of the Deaf community welcome curious Hearies who respect the Deaf and their culture. That in mind, much as I would love to visit a Deaf Club, I wouldn't think of going without a personal invitation and escort of a Deaf friend. Perhaps the people in the chat room thought an uninvited, unescorted Hearie was crashing the club."
RINGINGEARS1

"I was not born deaf, but became deaf at five. I went to an "all-deaf" school. I did not have many deaf friends at the school, I think this was because I never lived in the dormitory.

I never felt welcomed in the deaf community, so I was happy to have hearing friends at home. I was accepted to attend "all-deaf" college in Washington, D.C., but I decided against going, because it probably would be no different from the school where I attended so I went to another college which I was the only hearing impaired individual and I did very well there.

After being absent from the deaf community for over eight years (after I graduated high school.) After my relocation to Atlanta, I met a deaf woman with no deaf education background, she is a big ASL user but she has accepted for who I am regardless my limiting knowledge of sign languages. I also met another deaf woman; she lost her hearing the age of twenty. She also is an ASL user, but she does not feel welcome in the deaf community sometimes.

I have given ASL another chance by taking ASL courses in college but it didn't work out for me. I even dated a "hard-core" deaf woman, and more of an illiterate deaf woman, which I couldn't put up with her embarrassing me everywhere we went."
ABSATL

"I have been around hearing ppl in my life as I had few deaf friends, which I hang out during my school years. Hearing ppl would be my family as my cousins most of time, neighbors, friends at hearing school and at church. I never knew who I was or always deny myself as deaf but have to be HOH (hard of hearing). SO in 1985, when I graduated from hearing High schools and went to Gallaudet University. Wow, it was a big impacted for me and struggled to be part of them. So I gave up my time and gave up my time around hearing ppl which there wasn't much there. So I fought so hard to be part of them. I would try over and over and not give up. Of course, they gave me cold shoulders and never feel welcome because they can tell that I was not involves with deaf community.

The reasons they give cold shoulders and don't make you feel welcome because they are afraid to be treated awful or being disrespect, afraid you might take over and several reasons why also. Because of how they were raised in Deaf school, or their hearing parents took over their life, or hearing ppl tell them what to do and not giving them some space to do on their own or their own decision.

It is one way of them testing you to see if you are willing to be part of them.

What I did was when I first came to deaf club in my area, I tried my best to at least talk to one or two at a time. I had to gain their trust, conversation, and understanding about me wanting to be part of deaf club or their community. Of course, it was hard as like I said, I struggled, fought as hard I could to prove to them that I am a good person, willing to be part of it. So other thing I do is share some information that deaf may not know anything about it. I would share something like what I learned about Gallaudet University and told them few things. Or I would come up with some games that they may like and shared with them. Or I would bring in foods for the deaf club to eat. I would find a way to show them I can be like them.

After while, I was finally accepted by them and was pleased with them. So when a new person come in deaf club, I go to that person and talked with them because I been there and know what it like to be outsider.

You have to give them a chance at least 6 months or so to accept you or willing to get you involves in some conversation if there is something going on in a group of 4 or 5. Join in and chat. They will ignore you but you need to stand up for yourself and not to be afraid. Or start with one or two at a time to build up. You will do great!! Deaf love to welcome anyone but they are afraid from what I experienced it. It could be different in your area.

By the way, I was born deaf! Grew up with hearing culture all my life till I graduated. As Gallaudet University was my first time experiencing deaf culture and I love it.

Right now I am more involves with deaf community in my area."
3BABYBLUEEYE

Deaf hesitancy to jump at the opportunity to embrace hearing people is based on lifelong experience of hearing treatment of Deaf. Each individual has a different history, but many, many come from families who were unable or unwilling to accept their child as deaf. The children will go through their lives always knowing and sensing that their parents do not fully accept them. It's no wonder that these children turn a cold shoulder to the hearing world, when the only place place they have ever felt accepted is by their Deaf peers and Deaf adults.

Every once-in-a-while, when a child's parents really love them no matter what, and are willing and able to spend lots of time focusing on them, and their hearing loss is perhaps not totally profound in all the ranges, and/or their loss occurred after birth so that they have some experience of spoken communication, even just for a few weeks or months, then this child can be successful and fulfilled and happy in the hearing world. Perhaps. We often hear the success stories, not so often the "failures".

But what is often the problem in D/deaf to hearing relationships is that hearing have so little understanding of it, and the D/deaf are always labelled. Even the success stories are labelled. They are "that deaf guy/gal." Communication is not as natural, you can't talk to them without making sure they see your face.

Many people think they are rude because they don't reply to friendly comments. Every time a D/deaf person communicates with hearing people, the D/deaf person must put a great deal more concentrated effort into the conversation.

Hearing people are not defined by their ability to hear (except within the Deaf community) so it is something taken for granted. D/deaf people are always defined by their deafness and are stereotyped.

How often I have been told "you speak so well!". It makes me feel angry, b/c my hearing loss is postlingual, so I have a memory of sound. I feel sometimes like I don't want to voice b/c it is making hearing expectations of other prelingually deaf, so they will compare the next D/deaf person with me and figure that the next person doesn't try as hard, when, in fact, they must try much harder!

These are just some reasons why the Deaf community feels stigmatized by hearing people, and why it can be difficult to get "accepted" into the community. Imagine the difficulty of white parents adopting a black child, and then calling around to black organizations to try to give the child a healthy understanding of who he/she is. The same feelings will come into play.

If the D/deaf children can feel secure in the unconditional love of their family, then their is not reason not to give them access to ASL and the Deaf community without fear that you as parents or family will be rejected later on.


K.K.

"I am HOH, originally from birth borderline for school but I did well with the help of the L.A. City Schools. Now I am 58 and 5 years ago, after years of slowly deteriorating hearing, but not too bad, I had a big loss to where I now have large hearing aids and can't hear without them. I am gay and in a long-term, 23 year relationship with a 100% Hearing man, very understanding and supportive of me.

First of all, I think the chat room was rude with respect to the original person who started this thread and she was unlucky in that no one had empathy & tried to help her or guide her to a place where her concerns could be met.

But I don't agree with the woman with the deaf son who is apparently rejecting the Deaf community and prefers a very non-Deaf way of life. As a gay man, it struck me as similar to the way gay people try to adapt to the people near them, saying what they want to hear, not really sharing their innermost feelings, often even with themselves.

If I could I would instantly be able to Sign. It's not as easy to learn a language when you're older and also I live in a smaller town with no Deaf friends to communicate with in order to practice. In many ways my spouse/partner would find it easier to learn Sign as he's very visually-oriented which am not. But I wish that I could learn Sign and had that feeling of being in a language where I don't feel constantly under stress to make sure I'm understanding what's happening or putting pressure on him to relay everything to me.

Oh, and I can certainly understand and agree with the explanation for the defensiveness of many Deaf people encountered by various people in this thread, as you always feel a bit left out, very much like you're not getting everything, and often feel you have to depend on Hearing people to orient you.

As for the original woman with the HOH child, perhaps you can get help through this site in finding out what would be the best long-term for your child. I wish her the best of luck and feel her child is lucky to have a mother who is so understanding that there is a problem besides the deafness itself and works to help her child in her future."
M.F.

"I'm a hearing person with a slight hearing loss. But, I consider myself part of the deaf (as well as hearing) community, Because, I have the ability to sign. You have to consider deaf culture. What the deaf consider rude, and what the hearing consider rude, are to different things. Like turning the lights on, and off. Hearing people think that the person doing it is a jokester, but in the deaf community, it's a way to get attention I don't condone, what these people did. It was very inconsiderate, by any standard."
P.K.

"I just read about a mother trying desperately to get information about deafness and what to do with her HOH daughter. I remember when I went away to college in California, I lived in a deaf dorm and was not accepted. I knew I was rusty in signing and I was HOH. Severely. I was not accepted in the community until I graduated and left. Yes, there is a difference, Deaf and deaf. I was considered deaf, which means I was born however, I didn't come from a long line of generational deaf. I was shunned even by the teachers there at the college. I never told anyone how hurt I was, I just kept doing what I did best, talk with them and help them adjust to living w/o mom or away from one community to another.

I never forgot that. Even the teachers there Hated me, I had learned to read lips when I was younger, my grandmother told me I had 3 strikes against me. 1. I was African American 2. I was a girl/woman and 3. I was considered deaf.

I now help the deaf community whenever possible, why? I am still deaf no matter what I do. I accept that gladly, because without this knowledge I wouldn't be complete. I understand what this woman is going through, but please have patience"
K.S.

"I began working with deaf children a few years ago. I was told I would pick up sign. Not a lot more information was given to me. I did learn to sign, I'm certified as an interpreter now. I'm grateful to my co-workers, some of whom became dear friends. They truly struggled with me. (walking in the door I only knew the alphabet!) I have never taken a sign class and I learned all my skills through interacting with Deaf people.

I don't feel genuine acceptance. I don't think its possible for many Deaf to view me as equal. (people who's Deaf/Deaf intermarriage rate is at 90% have to be somewhat separtist)

Even as I gain credibility as an interpreter, people seem to be even more critical. I don't mind so much, cuz I do love the language, I take each mistake as a challenge to master both ASL and signed English forms. Learning both is something most Deaf don't bother to do."
C

 

"I am no expert but if you take the time to study and understand the struggle the Deaf Community has had to endure, it will help you to be patient with the Deaf.

It is surprising that we are in the 21st century and ignorance is still rampant concerning deafness. I knew a Deaf Man studying to be a Dr., one that works for the fire Dept. etc. There are mane brilliant and talented Deaf, they are not held back due to being deaf but because of ignorance. Let me give you a micro look at a few examples.

Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909), known as the "father of Criminology" theorized among other things that criminogenic traits could be acquired by a degenerate family, among those degenerate traits guess what one was? Deafness!!! Samuel Morse is best known for the " Morse Code" but how many know his real reason for developing it?? It was so he could communicate with his Deaf wife. Gallaudet University had hearing presidents until the " Deaf President Now" protest, after that they had their first Deaf President. In the late 1990's while in California I heard about the discovery of 17 deaf Mexicans in one small room; they were put on street corners to sell trinkets then herded back to their room, these are human beings NOT animals! Since the dawning of the21st century I read about a Hearing professional couple who had a Deaf child, they insisted that their child learn to be hearing, if a Deaf person tried to help these hearing parents called them " Deaf Militants", is it no wonder ! the Deaf community is wary of hearies??

I was told by a church that IF I had more faith I would not be needed to interpret ( I did it for free) and that it was I who was selfish. Needless to say I left that church. I have had many experiences, too many to mention here, hopefully one day I can write them down to educate and make the hearing community think. The more I study and experience the more I want to be an advocate than an interpreter, hopefully I can do both.

Please, please have patience with the Deaf community. Learn their culture, their language and the struggles they continue to endure. Teach them to your precious child, rejoice in her accomplishments the only difference is she can't hear. In your hands is a piece of the future, let her be proud of her culture and who knows what great things she can accomplish or what she will be when she grows up. Do whatever it takes to break through the barriers, you nor your child will never regret it.

Above all remember that if the Deaf is held back from greatness it is because of the hearing communities ignorance, and lack of understanding and acceptance that keeps them from taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to the rest of us."
D.H.

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