Deaf deaf HOH HI – deaf unity what’s that? by Natalya Dell

Deaf, deaf, Hard of Hearing, even the dreaded Hearing Impaired….. There’s a lot of divisions in ‘deaf communities’ and a fair bit of fighting. I don’t join ‘deaf’ spaces without expecting to need a fairly thick skin.

Yet every individual I speak to Deaf, deaf, HOH, deafened, deaf-blind says they don’t like the division and fighting either. In fact I’d go so far as to say people HATE it. I know I do.

Just hurling this blogpost out now in reply to a tweet really, cos 140chars isn’t enough. Someone suggested we had too much uncommon ground to do deaf unity…

That’s almost the opposite conclusion to what I was noodling with the other day.

The entire deaf world seems to be split into BSL signing culturally big D deaf and oral/aural non-signing small d deaf (hard of hearing, hearing impaired etc)…

You’re either or…. Apparently.

And even if you do accept a D/d deaf divide we seem not to be able to work together on anything and there’s epic amounts of grudge bringing up, “you were mean to me about X, so I’m not being nice to you about Y”…

And I can understand that. Cos what it says to me is we’re all hurting. Paddy Ladd on See Hear talking about CIs discussed bullying amongst “deaf” people of all deafnesses and talked about how it was caused by structural audism…

So assuming there’s 3 loose groups of deaf-signing, deaf-oral and then the inbetweeny group of deaf signing & oral cos an astonishing number of people seem to have some level of sign language skills…

I tried to work out some basic choices and which groups would choose what. And actually very few fell into either the deaf-signing or deaf-oral only camps. Most fell somewhere in between.

I also tried to add deaf-blind and deaf+other-impairment to that cos many of us do have sight impairments and I hear deaf-blind people talking about inclusion or exclusion within the deaf community. My own “additional impairments” affect how much I physically CAN sign…

So here’s my startng venn diagram:

Venn diagram

Venn diagram

What have I missed? I’m sure I have missed stuff, will modify this as needed.

But I think we can all agree that we support access to
* Healthcare via deaf awareness and communication support
* Education, cos right now for deaf children it’s not good
* Employment support in the workplace with deaf awareness, less structural prejudice,
* Access to Work support whether it be for BSL terps, lipspeakers or radio aids
* Entertainment with subtitles for cinema and DVDs and videos on websites etc
* Funding for access to support for every day life like Finland has for deaf people
* Some stuff under legal, social, moral, medical models of disability.
* Assistance animals like hearing dogs or guide dogs

The only thing I could find which I think some people want and others don’t is culturo-linguistic recognition of British Sign Language. Which arguably even those who don’t sign don’t lose out from, and could benefit from if we wanted to learn/improve our sign language and could apply to other things…

What are the other differences we have amongst ourselves?

By Natalya Dell

(Original source is here)


D/d classifications – Deaf is deaf.


A short while ago I was talking with a friend and as a result they posted a blog to vent their views and so did I within the comments section…. I posted the link to my facebook profile and it generated 400+ comments! I also received some private messages saying they had been told to use D/d or not to. No one has the right to dictate another what to do – educate them from all angles and then let them decide for themselves as whatever they decide will reflect their true character.

There have been and are occasionally “healthy debates” about using D/d to classify themselves and/or others. As a result, some people have chosen to refrain from using D/d and/or removed this term from their descriptions so they could not be accused of creating any divisions and also, because it is grammatically incorrect. Deaf applies at beginning of sentence whereas deaf applies after the start of a sentence.

Using D/d to include both groups is actually consciously dividing those two groups whereas using the word deaf to describe the deaf community on an united basis is much more diplomatic… Some argued that “Adjectives are used to denote identity (e.g. Black, British, Jewish etc.) often take a capital letter”. My response to that was “As for terms to denote identity such as Black, British, and Jewish etc. These are ethnic background identifications whereas being identified as deaf or hearing impaired is a medical issue, regardless of what ethnicity or origin a being is.”

There are those (i.e. huge D’s) who have massive chips on their shoulders but then again people with similar attitudes also exist in the hearing world. They will be best known for their bluntness. People tend to forget discrimination works both ways.

I have also seen on other hearing and deaf people’s articles/comments/blogs etc… That they keep using the word “Deaf” mid-sentence…. no one says ‘Hearing’ mid-sentence do they, so why do that? Someone also said to me people will say “I am Deaf” or “I am deaf” depending on how they identify themselves. I asked them, if they know of any hearing people stating “I am Hearing”??… Equality.

There are those who were born hearing yet lost that physical ability, identify themselves as being mentally hearing. A friend stating this arose the following questions:

“is there such a thing as being mentally hearing or deaf?”

“if a hearing child was born into a deaf family, would they be mentally hearing or deaf?”

It seems there is after all, a mentality for both. “Deaf brain processes touch differently: Lacking sound input, the primary auditory cortex ‘feels’ touch”

I tend to lean towards describing someone as a “BSL user” as it is even more diplomatic because it would also cover hearing people who can sign too. Yet perhaps that would be too broad a spectrum. The more deaf awareness is raised and when (not if – positivity rules!) BSL is legalised, every one will have no excuse not to compute. To whatever extent is up to them as everyone has different interpretations based on their own understanding, experiences and observations. Each to their own.

Some may say we are born into certain categories which again is divisive and segregates us. Those of us who believe in equality and inclusion – regardless, will disagree as we are born to be human beings, not subjects to be subjected to such triviality. We are who we are and my name is Sara Jae – pleased to meet you.

#D/d rant over :-)

~ SJ (Sara Jae)