My Existence as a “Slash” Person,
and a Tale of Two Trucks:
Physical deafness is defined as "partially or completely
lacking in the sense of hearing" (dictionary.com). This
definition includes two groups or subsets: those who
are "completely" lacking in the sense of hearing, and
those who are partially lacking. Both groups are, by
dictionary definition, deaf.
I am one of those in the "partially" lacking subset.
People in the "partially lacking subset" who are able to
somewhat function in the hearing world are typically
referred to as "hard of hearing."
Cultural Deafness is a set of learned or acquired
attitudes and behaviors. I have a hearing loss, but I
am culturally Deaf by virtue of the fact that I
choose to be. I choose to sign. I choose to work in a
Deaf-related field. I married a Deaf woman. I choose to
attend a Deaf Church. I choose to have Deaf friends.
I set up an ASL website. I choose to immerse myself in
this world. I'm proud to be a member of the Deaf
a “Slash” person. Specifically, Deaf “slash”
Hard-of-hearing. (Deaf/HH for short.)
To help you understand my “slash” existence and how a
person can be part of both the hearing world and the
"Deaf" world, let’s consider for a moment the world of
"trucks." While there are many types of trucks, you can
boil it down to two main kinds of consumer trucks:
2-wheel drives (2x4) and four by fours (4x4's). Both
are trucks and for everyday purposes we refer to them as
trucks. When we announce that a neighbor is moving, we
ask people to show up with their trucks to help with the
move. We do not say, "bring your 2-wheel drive trucks
and your 4x4's." We just say "truck."
There are times however when we specifically refer to
2-wheel drives or 4x4's. Two examples are when
1. Ability: When we are discussing actual physical
ability that has an application to our needs. For
example: It is snowing and we need a 4x4 because a
2-wheel drive would be more likely to get stuck.
2. Pride: 4x4 owners are proud of their machines and
occasionally it shows. They put stickers in their
windows proclaiming their status as a 4x4. Two-wheel
drives are of lower status and do not advertise their
Hard of hearing people are the 2-wheel drives of the
Deaf world. We are still trucks. We are still Deaf.
Just of lower status.
A 2-wheel drive truck owner my decide to "rice out his
wheels" (make his truck fancy). A custom paint job,
lots of chrome, expensive accessories, and a lift kit or
hydraulics. The owner of such a 2-wheel drive truck
will manage to garner quite a bit of respect. In the
city anyway. That's like me. I'm of a lower status
because of my subset (I'm hard of hearing) but I have
various degrees and certifications, I’m married to a
Deaf woman, and I work in the field, etc..
The problem though, is if the owner of a fancy 2-wheel
drive truck starts acting like he is hot stuff...the
proud 4x4 owners will quickly begin making comments
like, "Yeah, but it'd look better with some mud."
Meaning, that if it were a "real" truck (4x4) it could
go up in the mountains and splash around in the mud, but
since it isn't a "real" truck it can't get any mud and
therefore is not as good as a 4x4.
That is where the “slash” label comes into play. The
"slash" existence of being Deaf culturally but also
being careful so as to not pretend to be more than you
are, thus the "slash hard of hearing” tag. Sometimes
when I introduce myself or in response to someone's
questioning I refer to myself (in sign) as "DEAF/HH."
This is an attempt to establish my cultural affiliation
but to not overstate my status. I'm not alone in this.
I've seen many other "slash" people out there
introducing themselves the same way. If I introduce
myself as being Deaf (without the “HH”) that immediately
cues the other person to start asking which deaf school
I went to or if I went to Gallaudet. This is natural
because it provides a means of quickly establishing
connections that will help us exchange information about
classmates and mutual friends. While I did attend
Gallaudet briefly, it wasn’t as a full time student and
I did not attend a State Residential School for the Deaf. By adding the “HH”
to my introduction my conversational partner will be
less likely to waste time searching for assumed
connections that don't exist and will instead focus on
finding other connections.
The fact is I am bicultural. I live in both worlds.
In the Deaf world I have full access. In the Hearing
world I only have partial access.
The “slash” consists of those factors that determine
when I'm functionally deaf (unable to make use of my
residual hearing” and when I can function as a hard of
Here are some of those factors:
Deaf in these situations:
• background noise
• light behind speaker
• speaker has accent
• speaker has speech impediment
• Air Conditioner is running
• Small child’s voice
• Hearing Aid battery is dead
• Person on TV is “off camera or not facing the
camera.” Also if the TV is more than a few feet away.
• Person is more than a few feet away or speaks at
below 60 decibels
• Person covers his mouth or turns to write on the
• You are standing on my right (85 decibel loss)
• It’s time to take out the garbage
Hard of Hearing in these situations:
• Quiet environment
• Appropriate lighting
• Clear view of mouth
• Amplifier on phone
• I have my hearing aid on
• Standard American English articulation
• Person is within a few feet and speaks at 60 decibels
• Person isn’t chewing gum, smoking, or eating.
• The person on TV is facing the camera, his mouth
movements can be seen, the volume is at 70 decibels or
higher and I’m within a few feet of the TV.
• Some song lyrics if they are dominant and the graphic
equalizer is set at a reverse “cookie bite.”
• you are standing on my left (55 decibel loss)
• It’s time to eat.
Now, with all that in mind, you can see that a “slash”
existence is one of constantly blipping in and out of
either world as the environment changes. Often it
requires trade-offs. If I attend a party and am talking
with a man and woman, it is quite common for me to be
able to understand the man just fine and not understand
the woman due to differences in their voices. Or I’ll
be talking with an adult and a child and not be able to
understand the child. Or I’ll be at a meeting and be
able to understand the person at the head of the table
just fine (because he or she is subconsciously or
purposely speaking up) but not be able to understand
comments from others seated at the table. So, should I
request an interpreter for every meeting? It is a
sticky thing. “Interpreters” (like all of us) are
imperfect. They miss or screw up an amazing amount of
information. Plus they are expensive. Often the best
solution is for me to simply catch 80% of what is going
on and make frequent determinations as to whether a bit
of information floating past is worth “fighting for” by
asking for repeats. Certainly if another Deaf person
is in attendance I appreciate having an interpreter
available. But I use such an interpreter differently
than a “fully” deaf person. I will tend to watch the
speaker and then if I don’t understand something I’ll
quickly glance over at the terp to get the instant
replay. If there is no interpreter I prefer to just go
to the meeting without one and sit at the front and ask
questions when I determine that it is important. Plus I
read the minutes later on and I use my laptop to access
relevant information to fill in the gaps during
All in all I have a good life. It is a fun and
interesting existence. I’m grateful to be surrounded by
terrific people who genuinely care about one another.
In a message dated 5/17/2006 11:48:11 A.M. Pacific
Daylight Time, an administrator writes:
Thanks for sharing these personal insights with me. I
did find them fascinating.
I would recommend that we utilize an interpreter at all
departmental functions in the future to assure full
communication access for all of us. We do have funds
from ________ for this purpose.