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<<Biblioteca Digital del Portal<<La Educación<<La Educación (120) I, 1995 <<Artículo
Colección:
La Educación
Número: (120) I
Año: 1995

What is the Deaf Community?

A community is made up of persons who share common interests. They need not reside in close geographical proximity, but they frequently act together. Most critically, they seek each other’s company. They develop means to communicate and to meet with each other.

The evidence of these tendencies in deaf people is strong. It can be found in the large number of organizations deaf people have founded and which they vigorously support. Every civilized country with which we are familiar has organizations of, by, and for its deaf citizens. Deaf people have their own literature in many countries, publishing newsletters, books, magazines, and newspapers. They sponsor sporting events, like the World Games of the Deaf, and other activities, among whose purposes is providing the occasion for deaf people to visit with each other.

Wherever there are sufficient numbers of deaf people, you will find a Deaf Community. This finding holds true in Argentina and Spain, England and the United States, Israel and Zimbabwe. And this phenomenon is not of recent origin. The first written evidence of a Deaf Community comes from France, in the eighteenth century. The Abbé de l’Epée learned signs from Parisian deaf people. In the United States, the New England Association of Deaf was founded less than four decades after the new country adopted its constitution. These associations were founded by deaf people, for deaf people, and not by normally hearing people.

The nature of the Deaf Community differs from country to country. Certain characteristics, however, prevail across all nations. First of all, the communication system will accommodate the needs of the deaf members. That means that members of the Deaf Community communicate with each other in sign language. Sign language also differ from place to place; there is no universal sign language. Each country’s deaf people have their own distinct sign language—a language distinct in structure and content from the spoken language of that country. But communication in sign language is common to virtually all Deaf Communities.2

Secondly, the Deaf Community has organizations that facilitate meetings. Deaf people must see each other to communicate. True, modern technology makes it possible for people at a great distance to exchange messages. Typing back and forth, however, cannot substitute for the easy give and take in the presence of another person. Deaf clubs provide meeting places as well as a place to play cards, have refreshments, and socialize. A country’s deaf athletic tournaments are usually more occasions for deaf friends to get together than they are contests. Annual and biennial conventions in any particular country are less about deaf business and more about seeing old acquaintances.

Thirdly, the support of other deaf people is essential to well-being. As humans, we are social animals; we need to interact with each other, if only to share comments about the weather. Deaf people learn from each other how to cope with quotidian problems. They gain emotional support from deaf peers. The praise of their deaf colleagues increases their self esteem. Organizations of deaf people in some countries also enable deaf people to make their needs better known to their governments and to gain some measure of political strength.