Deafhood

         "Deafhood is not seen as a finite state but as a process by which Deaf individuals come to actualize their Deaf identity, positing that those individuals construct that identity around several differently ordered sets of priorities and principles, which are affected by various factors such as nation, era, and class.“


– Paddy Ladd, 2003


The term Deafhood was coined in 2003 by Paddy Ladd in his landmark work, Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood (Multilingual Matters). Since then, the concept of Deafhood has spread far and wide, embraced deeply by those in the Deaf community as a term to replace the negative, medical undertones of “deafness.”

Dr. Genie Gertz has a very nice explanation of the concept of Deafhood in an ASL video.  Also, there are many vlogs and blogs discussing Deafhood and related concepts on YouTube, JoeyBaer.com, DeafhoodFoundation.com, and DeafhoodDiscourses.com.

Deafhood calls for the Deaf community to unite as a whole, accepting the wide range of experiences and identities of Deaf/Hard-of-hearing (D/HH) individuals and recognizing that each person has something to contribute. Also, Deafhood calls for each D/HH individual to be proud of themselves for who they are without giving in to oppression by oralists.

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Understanding and embracing Deafhood means a Deaf/hard-of-hearing person has to free him/herself from colonialism by oralists and other hearing people. Deafhood calls for everyone to reject audism and linguicism.

  • audism = discrimination against deaf people on the basis of inability to hear and/or speak; as well as poor or condescending attitude toward deaf people
  • linguicism = discrimination against the language of deaf people (ASL); as well as poor or demeaning attitude toward ASL

Deafhood also calls for all of us to recognize the right of D/HH people to be bilingual, rather than to suffer under limiting effects of oralism. Oralism is the educational philosophy or practice that focuses on developing speaking, listening, and speechreading skills regardless. Oralism is a form of audism and linguicism! Bilingualism is the educational philosophy or practice that focuses on developing fluency in two EQUAL languages – ASL and English. Bilingualism recognizes ASL as the first and natural language of Deaf people, from which English skills are built upon. Bilingualism does NOT exclude the possibility of speech and speechreading skill development. For more information on bilingualism, please read the information on the Deaf Education page on this site.

For more information on what it means to be Deaf and understanding audism, view the following two movies:
  • Re-defining Deaf – Movie online at www.mosinternational.com (39 min, 2009)
  • Audism Unveiled – Movie available on DVD through Dawn Sign Press (57 min, 2008)
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Deaf people need to unite and support each other to defeat audism and linguicism. Another key element to the success of Deafhood and advancement of the Deaf community members will be dependent on building relationships with allies. Allies are hearing individuals who recognize the right of Deaf people to be themselves and to use ASL as their natural language. Allies are individuals who work alongside WITH and behind Deaf people to foster their success, rather than doing or talking FOR Deaf people. Allies also help with educating the general hearing community about the beauty of ASL and the rights of the Deaf community. Will YOU be an ally?