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Below is some general information for those who want to gain a better understanding of what it means to be Deaf, and the different ways in which Deaf and Hard of Hearing people choose to communicate. For more detailed information on these topics, D.E.A.F., Inc. publishes a booklet and provides a Hearing Loss Awareness kit which is available upon request. Contact the D.E.A.F., Inc. office or fill out out online form. Also see our Related Links page for Websites that address these issues from various perspectives.

The Deaf Community

While most people perceive deafness merely as a "condition," Deaf people view themselves not as "disabled," but as members of a distinct cultural community that possesses its own language, values, and social mores.

Individuals may identify themselves in one of several ways:

  • Deaf - typically indicates hearing loss is severe and occurred before the learning of formal language; primary communication mode is visual or tactile (for Deaf-Blind persons with little or no residual vision) Strongly identified with core values of Deaf community.
  • deaf - same as above, but without strong identification with core values of Deaf community.
  • Hard of Hearing - indicates the presence of some residual hearing that may enable an individual to use spoken English with amplification. Hard of Hearing persons may also use a manual form of communication, and may or may not identify with core values of Deaf community.
  • late-deafened - indicates the onset of hearing loss occurred after spoken language competence is fully developed. May or may not identify with core values of Deaf community.

It is important to remember that an individual's communication style is highly individualized and is shaped by many factors, including educational experiences, cultural/linguistic identity of family of origin, and peer influences, and so on. Any given individual will likely display characteristics from more that one of the above groups.


Deaf people use a variety of means to communicate. Among Deaf persons who use manual language, the most widely preferred is American Sign Language, which has its own separate, distinct grammar and syntax. Some Deaf people choose to use a manually coded form of English. Manual language users tend to use qualified interpreters when communicating with non-signing persons in formal situations.

Other communication methods include speech and speechreading. Assistive technologies are available to those who chose to use their residual hearing to communicate orally These include amplifying devices and Computer Aided Real-time Transcription (CART).


Interpreters are often used to facilitate communication. It is important to know that interpreters are certified professionals who adhere to a strict professional Code of Ethics emphasizing confidentiality and neutrality in all situations; the interpreter mediates between two languages and cultures, but is not a participant in the interaction.

Working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Using the TTY, TTD, and TT Telephone

Additional Local Resources

Related Links


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