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.
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?