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About Deaf People

Deaf People | Deaf Culture | Definitions | ADA / Rehab Act | Using Interpreters | Be an Interpreter

The history of the Deaf people is a long one. We will not recap it here. There are many books and articles you can read on the subject. An excellent resource for finding information on deaf people and their history is at

One item we will note, however, is that in 355 B.C., Aristotle said that those "born deaf become senseless and incapable of reason." He was wrong, of course. But, sadly, even today this view is still fairly common.

The fact is that Deaf people who are born deaf or become deaf shortly after birth and who are native sign language users consider themselves part of a cultural minority, or Deaf Culture. Members of Deaf Culture generally do not view themselves as disabled, and they hold the point of view that there is nothing wrong with being Deaf. Indeed, people who are deaf can do anything hearing people can do, except of course hear. Deaf people work as accountants, computer programmers, lawyers, managers, business owners, firefighters, postal workers, teachers, and more!

Deaf culture shares several similarities with other cultures all over the world. Cultures typically include features such as language, literature, art, folklore/history, social customs/mores/values, religion, cuisine, and modes of dress. The latter three are reflective more of local culture. But Deaf culture does have its own language, literature, art, folklore/history, and social customs, mores and values. The language within the Deaf community in the US and Canada is American Sign Language (ASL). Other characteristics of this culture include a specialized network based on school, family, and friends with community ties.

Literature in Deaf culture covers both print and visual formats. Deaf Heritage, written by a Deaf man, Jack R. Gannon, is one of the better-known works by Deaf authors, although there are countless works. You can also see stories and poetry on DVDs and videotapes, performed by Deaf poets such as Clayton Valli and Ella Mae Lentz. Some Deaf people have produced artwork, such as paintings and neon art by Betty G. Miller, paintings by Chuck Baird, or sculptures by Douglas Tilden.

Probably the best way to learn about Deaf culture is to spend time with Deaf people. Start by taking ASL classes, attending deaf-related events and/or visiting a local Deaf club. There is plenty to discover, and you will enjoy the journey!