Who are you? Finish that sentence.
How do you identify yourself? How much of your identity is linked to the foods you eat, the music you listen to, the people in your circle? Your culture?
Now, imagine that you are a child in school with a hearing loss and nothing around you looks
familiar. The foods you eat are not available, the music blaring is unfamiliar, and no one around
looks like you. Can you imagine how you would feel?
Each day, countless children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing are asked to navigate that very scenario. They are expected to attend school, grow academically and socially, but nothing around them meets them at a cultural level. Can you imagine how they must feel?
Culture… what is it?
Culture can be defined as the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize an institution or organization. It defines how people in a society relate to not only each other, but the objects around them as well.
Thinking in those terms, do we really think that our educational institutions can support the culture of ALL of it's students? Many educational programs focus on Deaf Culture and how different it is from hearing culture.
What exactly is Deaf Culture, you ask? According to the National Deaf Center, “...many deaf
individuals refer to themselves as being members of the Deaf community and ascribe to Deaf
culture. These individuals view themselves as a unique cultural and linguistic minority who use
sign language as their primary language. The characteristics of Deaf culture are formed out of
many shared life experiences rooted in a visual world designed for communication ease.
American Deaf culture centers on the use of ASL and identification and unity with other people
who are Deaf.”
But let’s get back to my original statement.
How would students with a hearing loss identify themselves?
Hard of Hearing and...
African American, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous- the possibilities are endless.
Deaf students bring their home identities into the classrooms as well as their Deaf identities, but who is meeting ALL of their needs? With all that is going on in the world, why do we mask the importance of culture and all that entails? Time to change that narrative.....