ON HAND: “The deaf” and “deafness”

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

“Education of the deaf.”

“The field of deafness.”

I used to consider these phrases absolutely acceptable. But then a friend pointed out that people wouldn’t dare to say, “Education of the oriental” or “the field of blackness.”

She further said that if we truly want to be considered a cultural entity, then we need to stop accepting “the deaf” or “deafness.” She reminded me that we are individuals, not “the deaf,” so we should be called d/Deaf people. Also, we are not afflicted with “deafness” (such as one would be afflicted with dizziness); rather, we are d/Deaf. I found her comments absolutely eye-opening.

Of course, this opens up a can of worms. Do we change “School for the Deaf” to “School of Deaf People”? What about “Club for/of the Deaf” – would we need to change that, too? Self-Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH) doesn’t say, “of the Hard of Hearing.” How about the National Association of Deaf People? Hmm.

I think I’ll stop using “the deaf” and “deafness.”

On a separate note: In an earlier issue, I asked if anyone knew of deaf people working at captioning companies. So far, only one has mentioned a deaf/hard of hearing person (who can speak well) working for NCI. Yes, folks. ONE person.

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