Deaf Community Definition | Kent State University

Exactly what is ‘Deaf Community’?

...perhaps the most concise and useful working definition is provided by Baker and Padden (1978:4):

The deaf community comprises those deaf and hard of hearing individuals who share a common language, common experiences and values, and a common way of interacting with each other, and with hearing people.

--Excerpted from Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood by Paddy Ladd 

Many of you may not be aware of it; it does exist in this country and not only United States of America ... all over the world! You’ll be surprised! Lately, many of you have completed your social interaction papers for your ASL classes with Deaf people but yet have not quite comprehended exactly what needs to be done. You go to a Deaf event and see several people mingling, hands flying or barely flying. You may have noticed there are other students from other colleges as well. You may have realized that there are more hearing people than Deaf people at the event. Let me ask you, is this the correct way of learning and experiencing the DEAF community’s common language, and culture? In my opinion: no.

Here’s the problem: You have to meet with a group of Deaf people; not just one or two persons, and not with a group of predominantly Hearing people or ASL students.  

Take a look at this picture:  

An anxious anthropology student wants to learn about the Aztecs. S/he lives in the USA and is taking classes at a prestigious college or any hick town college. S/he somehow met this person who’s pure Aztec. S/he bombards her/him with many questions about her/his people. Based on the information obtained from this ONE person, the student comes home and writes a thesis on the Aztec people, turns it in, and receives a HUGE ‘F’. S/he was flabbergasted and asked for a reason. The eminent professor replied, "A single person does NOT account for everyone. In order to know the Aztecs, you have to observe them in every aspect of their lives and cohesiveness." S/he decided to try again, of course, with the professor’s approval. S/he went to homes in the native Aztec land and hung around with them. S/he spent a lot of time with the Aztecs for a long while and returned to re-do her thesis. Handed it in and received a glorious ‘A’. S/he realized that meeting a single person of a certain group of people for a short time may give completely different information from interacting with MANY people from the group. She realized slhe has to ‘be’ with tlie people she is actually learning about, in order to understand the complete circle of their lives.  

You may think I’m asking too much; no, that is not true. You need to understand who the ASL/Deaf community is and that they actually do exist in a community. This is how you learn the language of the Deaf people. It might be a bit scary to actually go into a group of people you don’t know…but it IS a needed step in your learning ASL.