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Tattooing in the Deaf Community

By Julian Gray
Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tattooing in the Deaf Community

The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who have tattoos, and those who are afraid of people with tattoos. ~Author Unknown

Art is the main form of universal communication, no matter what race, religion, creed, or disability you may be affiliated with the act of creating and viewing art speaks volumes to the masses. people from all walks of life are now taking this universal means of communication and applying it to their skin...literally, through the widely popular form of art known as tattooing. In the deaf community (as in just about all communities) the popularity of tattoos is on the rise, and Artist such as Roger Desmarais (one of the few deaf Tattoo Artist in North America) are turning their love of tattoos and art into a profession. Also with the rise in popularity of tattoos in the deaf community, tattoo shops operated by the hearing are now making efforts to accommodate deaf clientele.

Artist Roger Desmarais left Gallaudet University, were he had planned on becoming a teacher in deaf studies in order to pursue his passion of Tattooing. (Thomas, 2006) Desmarais states that during his younger years he spent extensive amounts of time drawing on himself and his friends. Desmarais big break into the world of tattooing came when a tattoo artist set up shop in his apartment complex. Desmarais began apprenticing for the artist by drawing his designs. Desmarais says he was hesitant about the idea of becoming a tattoo artist even though the artist he was apprenticing for thought he would do well. A majority of his apprehension to taking up the trade came from his being deaf. ultimately, Desmarais came to the realization that in no way was hearing an essential part to tattooing, and with that he proceeded to pursue the art form as a profession. After opening up a shop in his home town, Desmarais catered to a diverse set of clients. " Desmarais has an appreciative clientele drawn from the deaf community because many would rather be tattooed by someone who is deaf as well to ease communication." (Thomas, 2006).

In the response to the ever growing popularity of tattoo's, Shop owners such as Don Nolan of ACME Tattoo, who employs an interpreter for his hard of hearing clientele. The article goes on to state that ACME "It's the only local tattoo shop with a TTY phone and fluent American Sign Language interpreter for clients who are deaf or hearing impaired." (Nolan). ACME Tattoo is only one of the many shops around the globe who have expanded their business in an effort to accommodate potential clients from the deaf community.

Tattoo's have become very popular with the deaf community. The blog Deaf Pagan Crossroads has an article on it dedicated to how much the deaf community like tattoo's in fact the title of the article is " deaf The Deaf Community Loves Their Tats Too!". the author of the blog talk bout deaf friends of hers who have permanently marked their bodies with art "Deaf Community loves its tattoos as well. I know of several Deaf individuals who have tattoos, and some of them have sent me pictures as well." (Beach, 2008).
The act of communicating through art via tattoos is an ancient practice existing from 12,000 b.c.e.(Gilbert,2001). Nowdays, the act of modifying ones body through tattoos is even more of a globalized practice encompassing people from all walks of life.

1. Thomas, Mia. (2006, March) Only Deaf Tattoo Artist in North America. Burnaby NOW. 29, March 2009.

2. Beach, Virginia L. (2008, January 20) The Deaf Community Loves Their Tats Too!. 29, March 2009 .

3. Nolan, Don The History of ACME Tattoo. 30, March 2009.

4. Gilbert, Steve (2000). Tattoo history : a source book . New york. Juno Books.


Also see: "Tattoos and Employment in the Deaf World"

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