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American Sign Language: Terminology:
Also see:  "Terminology 3"

For a growing list of terminology used at ASL University, please visit the Glossary page.

DrVicars: Is it okay to use the word "Deaf?"

DrVicars: What you think?

[Most answered yes]

Linda: Some might say it's not politically correct.

Shooter:  Hearing impaired?

DrVicars: Politicians used to think the word "Deaf" was not PC.   Politicians preferred the term "hearing impaired," but the Deaf community loves the word "Deaf." You could say it is "CC" --culturally correct.

Eugia: In this situation it's a lot easier to type.

[Meaning--in an internet based course the word "deaf" is easier to type than the term "hearing-impaired."]

Linda: Yeah!

Question:  What do you call Deaf people?

Answer:  Deaf.  Period.  End of sentence.

Not: Deaf and dumb.

Not:  Hearing impaired.

Not: Deaf mute.
(Update: The term "Deaf Mute" is actively being "reclaimed" by segments of the Deaf Community, similar to how the word "queer" has been "reclaimed" by the "gay community."  Until you are "very" familiar with the community though you would be well advised to stick with simply using the term "Deaf.")

DrVicars:  The important thing is Deaf see themselves as a cultural group. In Deaf-related writings and articles some authors use a lower case "d" in the word deaf to mean physically deaf. The uppercase "D" refers to those who are culturally Deaf. 

You might see this once in a while: d/Deaf. It is used to mean physically and culturally Deaf. You can be Deaf without being

For example: hearing children of Deaf parents are oftentimes considered to be culturally Deaf. The deaf children of hearing parents are just physically deaf until they start associating
with the Deaf community and learn its norms, mores, and values. Then they become culturally Deaf as well.

Vince: When you are signing to someone, do you use the sign "DEAF" instead of "hearing impaired?

DrVicars:  I use the sign DEAF.

  But feel free to make mistakes in this classroom.  How else are you going to learn?  You don't need to worry about the terminology much with me. I'm flexible.

Kloos: Mistakes, good!

KC: Dr. Vicars are you deaf?

DrVicars: I am hard of hearing. I have about a sixty decibel loss in my right ear and a forty decibel loss in my left.

Sandy: I want to make sure I understand this Big "D" little "d" thing. Are you saying that deaf cannot hear and Deaf can?

DrVicars: Great question. The answer: "deaf" refers to those who cannot hear well enough to understand speech for everyday communication purposes. "Deaf" (with a big "D") refers to embracing the cultural norms, mores, and values of the Deaf Community. You can be accepted into and a practitioner of a culture without being physically being born into that culture. So, both hearing and deaf people can be culturally Deaf. Watch out for the word "Deaf" at the beginning of a sentence when it is capitalized because of English grammar rules.

Sandy: Got it.

DrVicars: Of course there are levels of acceptance in any particular culture, so a hearing person might never reach the innermost circle of acceptance in the Deaf Community, just as a "white" person might never reach the innermost circle of acceptance in certain so called "ethnic" cultures.

"Hearie" is a slang Deaf term for "Hearing people."  "Hearing people" means people can hear.  "Hearing" is a cultural status as well as a physical ability.  

If a Deaf person says, "My boss is Hearing." It means that the boss is able to hear and is a member of the hearing community. The phrase, "I'm Hearing" doesn't mean that you are listening to something, but rather it means that you are not Deaf.


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