Hearing can range greatly, from partial to none. Some people are born deaf or hard-of-hearing, while others lose some or all of their hearing at some point in their lives. This diversity of experience is reflected in the language people use to talk about themselves.
Many people who were born deaf consider themselves members of a cultural and linguistic minority, and use capitol D (Deaf) to indicate this identity. Unlike many other people with disabilities, many Deaf people do not use people first language to describe themselves (Deaf person vs. person with a disability). On the other hand, people who lose some or all of their hearing later in life (“late-deafened”) may not use American Sign Language or identify with Deaf culture.
Deaf people are protected by the ADA. However, some Deaf, hard-of-hearing or late-deafened people do not consider themselves to have a disability. While many Deaf people may prefer to work with Deaf service providers when possible, some may prefer to work with a hearing provider, especially if they lost their hearing later in life. Some may wish to work simultaneously with Deaf and hearing providers. The key is to avoid making assumptions, and to take your cue from the person in front of you.
There are a number of strategies you can use to ensure that your engagement with a deaf or hard-of-hearing person is respectful. Eye contact, position of people in a room, and speaking at a moderate, yet natural pace, are all important elements of respectful engagement…
Additional information on respectful engagement with Deaf people
When you first meet a deaf or hard-of-hearing person it’s important to ask how they would like to communicate. If they request an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, ask if they have a preference for a specific person. Instructions for contacting an interpreter can be found in the Resource Guide (pdf) created by Deaf Vermonters Advocacy Services (DVAS) and Battered Women’s Services and Shelter…
Additional information on communication topics regarding Deaf people
When advocating with a deaf person in a medical setting or other system, it’s important to make them aware of and help them exercise their rights to equal access to services. All medical and legal services require interpretation by a certified ASL interpreter…
Additional information on medical topics regarding Deaf people
Most Deaf and Hard-of–Hearing people live independently. The Deaf community in Vermont is relatively small and tight-knit. Technology can allow Deaf people to stay in constant contact with each other, even when they live in remote areas…
Additional information on independence-related topics regarding Deaf people
Tips for Advocating with Deaf People
Some of the results of a yearlong collaboration between DVAS (Deaf Vermonters Advocacy Services http://www.dvas.org/) and Battered Women’s Services and Shelter include a Resource Guide (pdf) on working with Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, and a Protocol (pdf) and Collaborative Agreement (pdf) developed by the organizations. Organizations are encouraged to contact DVAS to plan for co-advocacy to support Deaf and hard-of-hearing survivors.
Also check out the helpful guide created by the National Sexual Violence Resource Sharing Project: Eight Step Advocacy Plan for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Survivors of Sexual Assault.
In Our Own Words
CJ Jones talks about “What’s Wrong with Being Deaf?” (on YouTube)