The Directness of Deaf Culture

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When a hearing person sees two Deaf people communicating, they may not realize that there is an entire culture associated with being Deaf and using sign language, but Deaf culture is very real and very different from hearing culture. In fact, The American Sign Language University at explains that people who identify with Deaf culture refer to themselves as “Capital D” Deaf because it is such an important part of their identity (Griffin, 2012). It is treated like a nationality, in that it would be disrespectful to spell America without the capital A. The World Federation for the Deaf asserts that deaf and hearing culture are similar in that communication is very important, but how Deaf people interact with one another is different. Gallaudet University’s Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center (Clerc NDEC) offers a discussion of Deaf culture. It explains that Deaf people engage in more physical contact when they interact. They are more likely to hug hello and goodbye than hearing people are. While it may be rude to tap a hearing person on the shoulder to get their attention, a Deaf person would find this acceptable. In some cases, it is even okay to knock on a table or stomp on the floor to get someone’s attention. All these behaviors would probably seem rude to a hearing person, but they are not in Deaf culture (2013).

Whether or not a person can hear, they usually still value honesty, but Deaf people tend to take this very seriously. As the Clerc NDEC explains, Deaf people are very direct in communication. Euphemisms and vague language are not an important part of Deaf communication (2013) For example, if two Deaf people have not seen each other in a long time, and one has lost some hair, it is not unlikely that other would tell them, “You’re going bald!” A hearing person would probably be offended, but a Deaf person would not because the statement was truthful. Deaf culture is much more open and direct than hearing culture, and this accounts for many of the differences that occur between the two.


About American deaf culture. (n.d.). Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center. Retrieved March 28, 2014, from

Griffin, J. (2012, April 6). Deaf culture: Being a deaf person is still being a person. Deaf Culture: Personhood. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from