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Deafhood Defined

Everyone Has Their Own Personal Definition

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Updated August 14, 2010

My personal definition of deafhood, as I understand it so far, is that it means that a person with hearing loss recognizes that he or she is not a hearing person, and feels positive about themselves. It can happen at any age, from childhood to adulthood. Deafhood has nothing to do with communication methods, and has everything to do with how you see yourself.

What would my own personal deafhood moment be then? Maybe it was when I found my identity as a deaf person while a teenager at NTID/RIT? Was it when I realized that the classic 1971 poem, "You have to be deaf to understand," reflects the fact that it takes having a hearing loss to truly be able to understand things like the frustration of trying to communicate with hearing people?

Origins of Deafhood

Deafhood began as a book, "Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood," by Paddy Ladd (compare prices). The deaf community, regardless of whether or not they had read the book, latched onto the concept as a way to unite the varied segments of the deaf community (signers, oral communicators, cuers, cochlear implant users, etc).

Definitions of Deafhood

The deaf blog community has espoused several definitions of deafhood:
  • A deaf blogger, Ridor had blogged heavily on deafhood. Some examples from the blog:
    • "has to do with the positive."
    • "includes the natural languages of Deaf people, especially American Sign Language, in every aspect of our lives as possible" - California Association of the Deaf
    • Will help to heal from oppression - Patti Raswant's letter. Ridor comments that it is similar in concept to gay people pretending to be straight. (Another anology, from my own experience, could be a deaf person trying to be hearing because they believe they have to appear as hearing, i.e., normal, as possible. When a deaf or hard of hearing person realizes that they do not have to act hearing, there is a sense of relief and freedom).
    • "reinforce and instill some kind of self-confidence" - Ridor tells about Carrie, a deaf friend who struggled with her identity.
    • Deafhood at NAD - Ridor reports on the NAD workshop on Deafhood. Highlights: need to revive deaf clubs, need to reclaim deaf education. Ridor followed up with an interview with the presenter.
    • Deafhood rejects oralism - Ridor explains why deafhood rejects the concept of oralism.
    • Prime Example of Deafhood - Ridor publishes a letter from Carrie explaining what Deafhood means to her.
    • Deafhood Letter - Ridor publishes a letter from Nancy Carroll. A quote: "advocacy that allows Deaf people to feel they are okay being Deaf!"
  • Mike Mcconnell on Deafhood (in a blog post from July 2006): "I don't care for the word "Deafhood." I just simply accept people for who they are since we're all basically in the same boat when it comes to equal access issues, legal rights and the narrowing of our communication gaps with hearing people and vice versa." (But isn't this the definition of deafhood?) In a previous posting from May 2006, "Big d or little d in deafhood," McConnnell criticizes a video blog.
  • Semantics of Deafhood - Rob Rice, another blogger, had written, "Deafhood is about the introspection and process a deaf person undergoes to accept themselves as being Deaf."
  • Chris Kaftan had noted in the now defunct DeafDC blogsite, "a Deaf person’s identity can only come to light when they accept their deafness and acknowledge the fact they are members of a larger, collective group."
  • a process, a journey. - Joey Baer's Deafhood ASL blogs
  • selected powerpoint slides from a deafhood presentation - Elisa
  • "a sense of identity...sum of oneself plus the communications of people around oneself" - Dianrez's blog
Suggested Reading
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Deafness
  4. Deaf Culture and History
  5. Deaf Culture - Deafhood Defined - Deaf Culture

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