Did you know that the Deaf culture is the only disability that has an actual culture? We are a community of people who come together often to chat in ASL because our world is so silent and isolated. We like to share experiences and empower each other through various activities. Hearing people are often shocked to learn that Deaf people are quite observant, empathetic, and very in touch with what is happening around them. Deaf people offer a unique perspective that most don’t think about.
Because we live a very isolated life, there are some things you can do to include Deaf people in the day-to-day run of life-learn sign language!! You cannot always expect that a Deaf person will understand 100% of what is said if they are forced to rely on lipreading. It really makes a Deaf person feel really empowered if he/she is included in conversations. One way to help them feel included is to let them know what the topic is about that is being discussed. It is very difficult to lipread, especially names and words that are not everyday words. Another way to help Deaf people feel included is to gesture or write down what you’re saying. It does not help to talk louder or exaggerate your lips. That actually makes lipreading harder! Also, think about sounds that are happening around you—if it is a non-seen noise, it is usually helpful to let the Deaf person know what you’re hearing (such as birds or a phone ringing) so that he/she knows why everyone is looking towards that sound, or leaving the room to answer the phone.
Deaf people also have a lot of trouble understanding sarcasm, and this is why facial expressions are so important. They cannot hear your voice, so they rely on your facial expressions to understand what is being said.
Do not be afraid to talk to or socialize with a Deaf person. Many people feel intimidated because they think they need to know sign language, but that is not always the case. Usually, you can get your message across with gestures. Chances are when you do interact with a Deaf person, you might learn some sign language. Also, if you see the word “Deaf” capitalized, that means the person is part of the culture. Many people are also “deaf”, which means they are not part of the culture or haven’t discovered it yet. Those people are “medically deaf”, whereas the Deaf people are “culturally deaf”. You can learn so much and gain so much perspective when you befriend a Deaf/deaf person!