Basics of Deaf culture outlined by interpreter

by Don M. Aycock, posted Monday, August 03, 1998 (20 years ago)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)--Deaf people live in their own culture much like other minorities. Barb Coffan, a participant at the 1998 Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf's 50th anniversary celebration in Memphis, Tenn., pointed out that since the culture of deafness has its own rules, the hearing should learn and respect them.

Coffan, a member of the East Boulder Baptist Church, Boulder, Colo., and a certified interpreter for deaf people, noted many hearing people rarely come into contact with deaf people, but when they do, they might want to know preferred terminology. Here are some examples:

The preferred term is "deaf people" rather than "the deaf."

The written term "Deaf," with a capital "D," implies Deaf culture. They are like any other language group. Deaf culture implies the total environment in which deaf people live, including ways to communicate and relationships.

Deaf people prefer the term "deaf" to "hearing-impaired."

The "oral deaf" are people who cannot hear but who do not use sign language. They read lips and speak and try to function like hearing people.

Coffan leads deaf groups on mission trips to places like Russia and Bolivia and has attended SBCD annual meetings for 25 years.

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