Celebrating Deaf Awareness Week

Deaf Awareness Week is the last week of September and exists to celebrate the rich culture of Deaf people all around the world. Being Deaf (with a capital “D”) is an identity. It refers to the culture, history, and language of those who identify as being members of the Deaf community.

Hearing difficulty isn’t a problem that needs to be fixed. Although some people in the Deaf community use hearing aids or cochlear implants, they are simply tools. Some people find them helpful, but that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone. Many people use lip reading, sign language, or a mix of the two instead!

As a hard of hearing college student, it can be very difficult to find people who relate to certain experiences. However, we can always work together to make life, both inside and outside of the classroom, more inclusive for Deaf individuals and those who are hard of hearing. Here are a few tips on how to be more aware and how you can help the Deaf community:

  1. Please don’t cover your mouth when you’re talking! It makes it so much more difficult to understand. Many people with hearing difficulties rely on visual and other nonverbal aspects of communication, like analyzing facial expressions and lip-reading.

  2. Especially in environments with a lot of background noise, or even just dim lighting, it can be more difficult to understand what someone is saying. If you’re talking to a Deaf person and they don’t understand, try repeating and rephrasing your words. Please don’t just dismiss whatever you were going to talk about or say “never mind.” It’s a little hurtful and could make the person you’re talking to feel excluded.

  3. A little extra effort goes a long way when it comes to including Deaf people in social situations. When there are a variety of sounds and people talking over each other, it can be very frustrating trying to understand it all. It can also feel isolating to be surrounded by people who can hear or who may not be familiar with the Deaf community. This may cause someone with hearing difficulties to withdraw from conversations, mainly because they feel like they can’t contribute. Remedy this withdrawal by actively including your Deaf or hard of hearing friend(s) in the conversation, avoid talking over one another in groups, make it clear when the topic is changing, and check in on your friend to make sure they feel embraced and included!

  4. Get the attention of the person you’re speaking to before you actually begin talking and make sure to face them. It may seem like exaggerated lip movements will help, but a lot of times the opposite of this belief is true! Just talk at a normal pace and use natural facial expressions and body language.

  5. Be receptive and open to learning about Deaf culture! There is a lot more to the history, art, and language of Deaf people than those outside the community realize. This week is all about celebrating this specific community, after all!

Asking questions is totally fine. Many Deaf and hard of hearing individuals would love to inform you about themselves, their experiences, and their communities - just be respectful! (Saying “can you hear this?” or “What about now?” gets old really fast). For more information, you can visit online resources such as the National Association for the Deaf, the American Hearing Research Foundation, and the Gallaudet University Clerc Center