What is the Deaf community?
The Deaf Community is not a single society with one purpose which one
can "sign up for". It is a diverse meeting of individuals who come
together for many purposes but who share some basics of experience, communication and commitment. The communication will be
in sign. The commitment will be to support other deaf people and to have a
place to meet.
There has been discussion in the past, on the extent of the Deaf
Community. It has become clear that it is not helpful to try to define the Deaf
Community in terms of pathology. The medical / educational definitions of loss
and lack of abilities do not adequately describe the nature of the Community. The
most effective definition provided is:
"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.
The most basic factor determining who is a member of the deaf community seems
to be what is called `attitudinal deafness'. This occurs when a person
identifies him/herself as a member of the deaf community and other members
accept that person as part of the community."
Deaf, Hard of Hearing or Deafened are the most
acceptable terminology. These inappropriate terms are Hearing Impaired, Deaf
and Mute, Deaf and Dumb and Hearing Handicapped because many people find them
- Deaf people have their own language and culture
- Deaf people are separate and different from other physically challenged groups because they don't share the same language. The barrier they face is a communication barrier, not a physical barrier.
- Ten percent of Deaf people have Deaf parents and acquire cultural norms and values through the family unit; the remaining 90% adopt the culture later in life.
- ASL (American Sign Language) is considered their natural first language.
- Written English is a second language for most Deaf people.
- Deaf people tend to think in visual and logical concepts, not in auditory terms.
- The most successful mode of learning for Deaf people seems to be Deaf to Deaf, ASL to ASL.
- 75% of the information acquired by hearing people comes from radio, television and other people's conversations; this information is rarely accessible to Deaf people.
- Interpreting is not the most ideal situation for communication, but the next-to-best method.
American Sign Language:
- The elements of ASL consist of handshapes, position, movement and orientation of the hands to the body.
- ASL also uses space, direction, speed of movements, and facial expressions to help convey meaning.
- To understand ASL, we need to understand the context in which the Deaf community exists.
- ASL embodies the thoughts and experiences of Deaf users through culture sharing and learning.
- Not all Deaf people identify with ASL as their primary language.
- Most important of all, ASL can be understood only through signing, not in writing.
Schools play an important role in deaf people’s
lives because most culturally deaf people are not born into the culture. At
school, children who are deaf and hard of hearing first learn about other deaf
children and adults. The majority of culturally deaf adults aged over 30 and
older were educated in separate schools for deaf children called residential
schools. Many provinces across Canada built one residential school for deaf
children and hired specially trained teachers to work with them. Deaf children
boarded at these schools for weeks/ months at a time because deaf children
often had to travel long distances to attend these schools.
The school became a home away from home for many
young deaf children, a place where they could interact with other children like
themselves and learn a history that their hearing families did not know. The
school provided vocational training when deaf children became older.
Deaf children no longer attend residential schools
in the same numbers as they did in the 1950’s and 1960’s. This integration or “mainstreaming”
of deaf children into regular classrooms has provided them new opportunities.
However, integration has had other consequences as well. As a result of more
children attending public school, many schools for the Deaf have closed. For
example – Newfoundland School for the Deaf was closed last year.
In contrast with the residential school program
that once had as many as 130 students, most local public school programs have
only 5 – 10 deaf students. Some researchers/critics of the mainstreaming
concept agree that integration has isolated deaf students from each other,
depriving them of social and emotional comforts that peer groups can provide.
Why is ASL so important in the Deaf community?
To understand the role of ASL in the Deaf
community, we need to understand the context which this community exists.
The single fact of being Deaf usually entails a
whole set of shared experiences among Deaf people. The vast majority of Deaf
people attend residential schools where Deaf students eat, sleep, study and
play together. Throughout their school and adult years, Deaf people are also
drawn together by sport activities and social events for Deaf people. Special
tours, newsletters, school reunions, and conventions are other means of drawing
Deaf people together. The result of this continuous contact in academic,
social, and job-related situations is that Deaf people have formed a cohesive
and mutually supportive community.
Approximately 90% of Deaf people have hearing
parents. Those parents use a verbal language (English), a language that the
Deaf child cannot hear or learn with ease. It is at school, with peers, that
most personal and social information-sharing occurs and where close relationships
are established through a language especially shaped for the eyes rather than
the ears. A language passed on by Deaf parents whose children then teach it to
other Deaf children.
At the heart of every community is language. This
language embodies the thoughts and experiences of its users and they, in turn,
learn about their culture and share it with their peers. Thus, Deaf people
learn about their own culture and share their experience with each other
through American Sign Language (ASL).
- TTY: Place the telephone handset on the TTY coupler. You and the caller who has the TTY will type back and forth, using GA (go ahead) to signal to the other person to type, and SKSK (stop keying) to end the conversation.
- Aliant Relay Services (ARS): Enable TTY users to place calls to or receive calls from non-TTY users, with the assistance of a relay service communicator. TTY to voice: 711
- Cell Phone: Thanks to our modern telephone technology, can make and receice telephone calls that supporft a wide variety of services such as text messaging, email and internet access.
- Computer: Modern personal computers often have connections to the Internet, allowing access to the World Wide Web (www) and a wide range of other resources such as TouTube and Skype, you can see Deaf people signing ASL in video.
- Closed Captioning: Process of displaying text on a television to provide interpretive information to individuals.
- Sign Language Interpreter: Facilitate communication between persons (Deaf and hard of hearing) who use sign language and persons who do not use sign language. For many Deaf people, this is a customary means of communication.
Communicating with Deaf people
Deaf people communicate in
different ways, depending on several factors: age at which deafness began,
degree of deafness, language skills, speech abilities, personality,
intelligence, family environment, and educational background.
Some Deaf people are more
easily understood than others. Some use speech only, or a combination of sign
language, fingerspelling, speech, writing, body language and facial expression.
You can communicate with Deaf people in several ways, and always remember they
are more than willing to facilitate communication with you. The key is to find
out which combination of techniques works best with each Deaf person you
encounter. Keep in mind that it is not how you exchange ideas but that you try.
What to do when a Deaf person communicates with you:
Do not panic. Be calm and patient. Give them a chance to receive the help they need.
- First, speak normally, ask what they need. Maintain eye contact. Do not exaggerate mouth movements.
- If they do not understand, then try gesture. Use basic words to gesture, like driving, eating and sleeping.
- If that does not work, ask if they can write. Using your hands, get them to write to you.
- When writing, use simple sentences. Ask if they would like an interpreter. If the client does not want an interpreter, continue to write back and forth.
- Look directly at the Deaf person when communicating at all times. Eye contact is important.
- When using writing as a form of communication, take into consideration the Deaf person's English reading and writing skills.
- Look for a broad meaning in the Deaf person's writing. Ignore grammatical errors. Break down the person's sentences into point form for clarity.
- Keep your sentences simple, clear and to the point.
- Some Deaf people may have difficulty understanding unfamiliar vocabulary.
- Often, asking the person to rephrase information is the best way to clear up misunderstandings.
Sign Language Interpreter
Deaf people have a
right to access community services. The fee for service is paid by the
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Federal Government of Canada, agency, service provider, hospital, employer,
legal service, etc. The Deaf consumer is not expected to pay for accessibility.
Interpreting Services are part of the legal, financial, and moral obligations
of society. Just as ramps and elevators are supplied for people in wheelchairs
so too should sign language interpreters be supplied for Deaf and hard of
hearing. Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing individuals and groups such as
agencies, organizations, schools, employers and businesses are all consumers of
You can contact
Interpreting Services of Newfoundland and Labrador (ISNL) office at Voice (753-5621)
There is a critical
shortage of available interpreters. The more notice you can give, the greater
the chances for finding an interpreter. ISNL suggests making request at least 4
weeks in advance of the appointment. Every attempt will be made to fill your
request; however, all requests are subject to the availability of interpreters.
Priority will be given to those requests involving mental health, medical and
Difference between Interpreter and Signer
- A qualified trained professional
- ASL/English Interpreter Training Program
- Bound of Code of Ethics: Will protect client confidentiality
- Trained to facilitate communication
- Stays within role as expected of an interpreter
- Interprets everything that is said or signed
- Skilled with interpreting, transliterating, sign to voice, and voice to sign
- Has various communications and signing modes
- Has knowledge of deafness and culture
- Not qualified; not trained professionally
- Often is a friend or family member
- Not bound by the Code of Ethics; no client confidentiality
- No idea of the interpreter's role
- Unable to say or sign everything
- No skills with interpreting, transliterating, sign to voice, or voice to sign
- Limited or basic signing only
- Some knowledge of deafness and culture
The Viking Building
136 Crosbie Road, Suite 100A
St. John's, NL A1B 3K3
(709) 753-5620 (TTY)
(709) 753-5621 (Voice)
(709) 753-5682 (Fax)