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What is Deaf Culture?
Culture may be defined as patterns, traits, products, attitudes, and intellectual / artistic activity associated with a population.
Based on this definition, the Deaf Community has its own unique Deaf Culture. Deaf people produce plays, books, artwork, magazines, and movies targeted at Deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences. In addition, the Deaf Community engages in social and political activities exclusive to the Deaf Community.
Deaf Culture and the Deaf Community are associated with people who are born Deaf, and generally use sign language to communicate.
It often comes as a surprise to hearing people that many Deaf people refer to themselves as being members of the Deaf Community. The Deaf Community is a unique linguistic minority that uses sign language as its primary mode of communication. Within the Community, Deaf Culture naturally evolves and has its own unique values and ways of interacting. Examples include:
- Social Customs
- Irish Sign Language
- Other Aspects of Deaf Culture
- Deaf Art
- Deaf Theatre
- Deaf Humour
- Deaf Folklore
- Deaf Organisations
- Deaf History
Deaf people consider themselves members of a group that includes all Deaf people. Deaf communities are close-knit and interconnected.
Deaf people greatly enjoy being in the company of other Deaf people and will actively seek ways to do this, for example, 21st birthday parties; people will travel from Roscommon, Donegal etc. to attend a party in Cork. When Deaf people first meet, the initial goal is usually to find out where the person is from and to identify the Deaf friends they have in common.
The behaviours associated with cultural values are deeply rooted. We do not consciously think about the rules involved when making introductions or how to say goodbye when we leave. As children, we saw these behaviours repeated often and have long since fully incorporated them into our cultural repertoire.
It is only when we are placed in a culture that uses different rules that we realise there is another possible way to accomplish the same task. For example, when a Deaf person leaves a gathering of other Deaf people, the process is quite lengthy. In Deaf Culture, one approaches each group to say goodbye, which often results in further conversation. The entire process can take more time to accomplish than just saying goodbye. This behaviour may seem unusual; however, if we remember that Deaf Culture highly values being interconnected with all of its members, the behaviour makes a great deal of sense.