Deaf Awareness Month occurs every September. This occurrence promotes awareness of needs amongst the deaf community and celebrates their rich cultural history. It also highlights the need for continuing advocacy for D/deaf rights under the ADA.
Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents. I am one of them. There is no one answer for the cause of deafness. It can range from birth defects to aging to circumstantial causes. Many of my friends in the deaf community became deaf due to meningitis, which is an inflammation of the fluid and membranes surrounding your brain and spinal cord.
In terms of Deaf culture, there are three key words you will see being thrown out – “D”, “d”, and “D/d”. “D” refers to “capital D”, which are people who identify themselves as culturally deaf. “d” refers to the identity of “deaf with a small d” meaning their hearing loss is seen as a disability, rather than their identity. “D/d” can refer to someone that identifies either way.
Ever since I attended Rochester Institute of Technology and became embedded in the deaf world, subconsciously a door blew wide open to this whole new identity that was concealed inside me. In some ways, I became a little louder. Louder about my identity. Louder about my wants and needs. Louder about my passion for accessibility.
Instead of unintentionally being dismissive of my own disability, I have embraced it. But along with the difficulty of embracing it, comes the difficulty of accepting that I will need help. Along the road, I have missed opportunities solely because of the lack of accessibility. Those missed opportunities only ended up being detours to a scenic route with a wonderful vision at the end.
In the end, my identity has taken on a new meaning. I realized that I grew up with no identification of being deaf. I went from being identified as a “d” to “D/d” because I have gained the skill to adapt to two different worlds. While I still am not “hearing” enough to fit in the hearing world, at least I have my lip-reading skills to get me by. While I still am not “deaf” enough to fit in the deaf world, at least I communicate with ASL to get me by.