Deaf Community or Sign Language Community?

I had a fascinating conversation the other day with a dear friend of mine. I am curious about your reactions, thoughts, and arguments so please comment after you read my post.


Believe in Empowering Deaf?

My friend made the following thought-evoking point:


“Deaf Communities” would be more correctly

labeled as “Sign Language Communities”.


Deaf culture is passed down from Deaf parents to their children. Since approximately 90% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents, however, it is up to the children of Deaf parents to pass on Deaf culture, language, and heritage.  This teaching process has traditionally occurred at Schools for the Deaf where Deaf children from both hearing and Deaf parents are brought together.  American Sign Language was the primary language of these schools. (Even when “oralism” took hold and students were forbidden to use sign language, it was preserved and passed down.)



My friend, however, made the following argument that I believe is worth some thought. We call those involved in Deaf culture, members of the “Deaf Community”. However, she pointed out that as approximately 90% of children born to Deaf adults are hearing (CODAs), most of those who pass on Deaf culture are, in fact, hearing. These children have been raised with sign language as their primary language and have incorporated “Deaf” culture. The “Deaf Community” then is not made up of a Deaf majority but of sign language users (Deaf, CODAs, etc.) Wouldn’t then it be better to refer to these communities as “Sign Language Communities”?


What do you think?

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2 Responses to Deaf Community or Sign Language Community?

  1. I believe they are both different communities, the Deaf community and the Signing community, with obviously a major overlap. Calling the Deaf community a Sign Language community is like saying the American and British community is equal to the English (language) community, and they are clearly not the same.

    I believe the Deaf community is a cultural community. Meaning if you are a CODA, or you are married to a Deaf person, or you have been around the Deaf community for years, you can become a Deaf person. That is, a Deaf person w/o being deaf. Just like in the ‘hearing’ world you can become part of a different community then the one you were born in, whether it be by marriage, by choice, or anything else.

    • Destiny says:

      Thank you for your comment Amparo Severins. I agree that some hearing become “Deaf at heart” however I do know that some Deaf feel that hearing cannot become “Deaf w/o being deaf” no matter how hard they try simply because their past experiences differ so greatly. For example, hearing do not understand what it is like to grow up in a hearing world with language barriers. What are your thoughts? I think your comment on a “cultural community” is excellent and thought-provoking.

      Also, your is awesome, by the way. I’m enjoying reading through it. 🙂

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