Understanding deaf culture: The right way
Updated: Jul 1
With a distinct sense of traditions, language, history, theatre, diction, art and literature – all of which feeds into itself to contribute to the essence of Deaf culture – there is a need to debunk the myths that they have for so long been projected to.
Being a part of the hearing-dominant, mainstream culture, some of us have convinced ourselves we know more about this community than we actually do.
1. Sign Language
Living in a non-signing world for the most part, we assume that the basic hand motions we have integrated in our daily life are a part of sign language. Here’s a reminder: you flailing your hands or aimlessly waving them around sadly does not equate to you being well versed with sign language. According to that notion, all babies know sign language. That’s a win for useless craft.
While nodding your head back and forth communicates a yes, the correct way to sign yes is making your hand into a fist and bobbing it back and forth.
Similarly, moving your finger sideways is not a no; instead you take your index and middle finger and tap them together with your thumb.
You may not have an encounter with a Deaf person on a daily basis, but it doesn’t hurt to know the basics.
2. “The Deaf are not as capable”
If someone told you a Deaf guy won America’s greatest dance and modelling show, you would have probably laughed it off. In case you didn’t know, here’s some information: It has happened and its called Nyle DiMarco.
In the saturated hearing society of today, the Deaf have time to time proved that they are just as ambitious, passionate and accomplished as us. Being part of the hearing society, it is our responsibility to give the Deaf the same opportunities we make available for us.
While there is no distinct Deaf mode of dressing up, it’s always recommended that interpreters avoid bright-coloured, flashy or highly decorated clothing because it could serve as a distraction when comprehending one’s message.
This is not to say the Deaf are restricted to a certain kind of style – absolutely not.
However, avoiding glitzy clothing minimises eye strain and makes it easier for them to follow a conversation.
4. Drawing attention
It’s never too late to learn the right way to signal to a Deaf person.
Don’t #1: Flashing a bright light in their face. We do not take responsibility for the bruise that might appear on your face.
Don’t #2: Throwing things at them.
Don’t #3: Wave right in front of their face.
Do’s #1: Move into their visual field or face them.
Do’s #2: Tap them lightly on the shoulder.
Do’s #3: Tap the table.
Do’s #4: Wave in their line of sight; small wave from short distance, bigger wave from afar.
As a hearing person, it is our responsibility to respect Deaf culture and their norms. They don’t find their loss of hearing disabling and neither should you.
Little do you know, most of them are glad they don’t have to witness some boomer’s outburst at the worker because the sugar in her tea wasn’t the right amount.