6 Important Things That You Might Not Know About ASL And Deaf Culture

6 Important Things That You Might Not Know About ASL And Deaf Culture

Look past all the things you think you know, and learn what Deaf culture really means.
4394
views

I grew up adoring my aunt, who stayed with my family many weekends, and eventually moved in with us a few years ago. She's deaf, but also cognitively delayed, meaning she'll permanently function at the level of an elementary or middle-schooler. Because of her cognitive delays, my aunt didn't have the typical "deaf upbringing" she might have had. She's never really been a part of Deaf culture. Of course, she has some things in common with other deaf adults - she prefers physical affection, loves seeing friends and hates saying goodbye to them and chooses movies with physical action or humor.

But as someone who interacted on a daily basis with a deaf woman and spoke conversational sign language, I knew very little about Deaf culture when I went to college. Last year, I took a Deaf culture class that taught me so much about the lives of deaf Americans, signed languages, customs and cultural expectations. I realized then how much most hearing people don't know or incorrectly assume about deaf people.

1. There are only two countries that use predominantly ASL.


The United States and Canada are the only two countries who primarily use American Sign Language. French Sign Language was the basis for ASL and the two still share plenty of similarities, though they also differ in plenty of ways. However, according to The Ethnologue, there are around 130 recognized Deaf sign languages in the world, though there are also other undocumented sign languages out there too. Long story short, deaf people can't just go to any country and automatically communicate with other deaf people. Sign languages aren't universal. There is an International Sign Language, but it's not widely used outside of worldwide meetings, such as the World Federation of the Deaf Conference.


2. Deaf people are typically better drivers.

Plenty of people assume that those who can't hear also can't drive. The opposite is true. Statistics have proven that most deaf drivers are equal to or better than hearing drivers. This could potentially be because noise distractions don't exist for them or because they rely so much more on visual signals, which is what driving is primarily based on. While deaf drivers are proven to be perfectly competent, there are a number of other countries around the world that don't allow their deaf citizens to drive.


3. Deaf culture has its own films, "music," dance, poetry, literature and folklore.

Like any country, community or cultural group, Deaf culture has its own forms of art and entertainment. For example, deaf poetry is a 3-D art form (performed both in video and at live events), using hand shapes, hand locations, body movements and facial expressions to tell a poetic story. There are also a multitude of books written by deaf adults, films with entirely deaf actors and videos that blend sign language with things like music or dance.


4. "CODAs" are a go-between for two separate cultures.

CODA is an acronym for Children of Deaf Adults, meaning a hearing child born to one or more deaf parents. It's actually quite common for deaf people to give birth to hearing children, as deafness is not typically genetic. CODAs have the opportunity to live between Deaf culture and hearing culture, which can be both a blessing and a curse. They usually have the benefit of being fully bilingual, but can also struggle with learning to verbalize words at a young age, and in many cases need speech therapy when entering school. They also often take on the role of their parent's interpreter from a young age, which can teach skills, but also can be too much responsibility and information for a child to be exposed to. There is a fascinating piece here, written by a CODA about some of his experiences.


5. Name signs are usually personal and treasured.

My own experience with name signs is different from the more typical Deaf culture name sign experience. My aunt, as a deaf adult who is also cognitively delayed, is unaware of the importance that other deaf people place on name signs, and has always taken a much more simple approach. She gives each person she meets a sign that is essentially the first letter of their name held against her cheek, shoulder or the top of her head.

However, more often in the Deaf Community, name signs are a gift. They are given to non-deaf friends or family only when the deaf person feels they've earned a name sign and their trust. Some other deaf people do use the person's initials, though often in other locations or combined with some other personal characteristic. Other people choose to create their own personalized name sign based on a physical feature, personality trait, habit or inside joke. The signs are particularly treasured and take time to be chosen.


6. Deaf people are generally proud to be deaf.

While much of "hearing America" looks at deaf people with pity and thinks of deafness as a disability and hardship, members of the Deaf Community don't see it that way at all. Many of them hope to have deaf children who will also become strong members of the Deaf Community. The culture is incredibly close-knit, encouraging and open by nature. Deaf people share much more with their friends and neighbors than someone hearing usually would.

But the most important thing to take away from all of this is that if deaf people don't think of themselves as disabled, hearing people shouldn't think of them that way either.

Cover Image Credit: Nancy Rourke

Popular Right Now

To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

694204
views

To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

In Real Life, 'Plus Size' Means A Size 16 And Up, Not Just Women Who Are Size 8's With Big Breasts

The media needs to understand this, and give recognition to actual plus-size women.

1638
views

Recently, a British reality dating TV show called "Love Island" introduced that a plus-sized model would be in the season five lineup of contestants. This decision was made after the show was called out for not having enough diversity in its contestants. However, the internet was quick to point out that this "plus-size model" is not an accurate representation of the plus-size community.


@abidickson01 on twitter.com


Anna Vakili, plus-size model and "Love Island "Season 5 Contestant Yahoo UK News

It is so frustrating that the media picks and chooses women that are the "ideal" version of plus sized. In the fashion world, plus-size starts at size 8. EIGHT. In real life, plus-size women are women who are size 16 and up. Plunkett Research, a marketing research company, estimated in 2018 that 68% of women in America wear a size 16 to 18. This is a vast difference to what we are being told by the media. Just because a woman is curvy and has big breasts, does NOT mean that they are plus size. Marketing teams for television shows, magazines, and other forms of media need to realize that the industry's idea of plus size is not proportionate to reality.

I am all for inclusion, but I also recognize that in order for inclusion to actually happen, it needs to be accurate.

"Love Island" is not the only culprit of being unrealistic in woman's sizes, and I don't fully blame them for this choice. I think this is a perfect example of the unrealistic expectations that our society puts on women. When the media tells the world that expectations are vastly different from reality, it causes women to internalize that message and compare themselves to these unrealistic standards.

By bringing the truth to the public, it allows women to know that they should not compare themselves and feel bad about themselves. Everyone is beautiful. Picking and choosing the "ideal" woman or the "ideal" plus-size woman is completely deceitful. We as a society need to do better.

Related Content

Facebook Comments