Are there any Deaf left?

I’m worried; very worried.

The Deaf community is at a precipice at this moment in time. Why? Those of us who have a Deaf identity are facing the biggest challenge we’ve ever come across: the desire to be considered “normal”.

I’ve noticed a worrying trend for some time; there seems to be far fewer individuals who are actually proud to be Deaf and dislike the terms “hearing impaired”, “hearing loss”, “hard of hearing” etc.


More and more deaf children are being educated in the mainstream which means individuals are being completely isolated from the Deaf community, and most importantly, BSL and exposure to the positivity associated with being Deaf as opposed to trying to conform with hearing peers and hearing families and pander to the narrow-mindedness of medical professionals.

Cochlear implants

There seems to be a growing tendency for friends of mine who I always thought were proud to be Deaf to opt for a cochlear implant.

Now, I don’t have anything against CIs per se, if the implantee makes the decision knowing the full facts and associated risks. It’s only when children who don’t have a say in the decision to have a CI are forced by parents who are being influenced by medical professionals and the medical model of deafness and their insecurities and desire for their kids to grow up normal I have an issue with.

I recently discovered that 90 percent of deaf children now have CIs. That’s a gobsmacking statistic.

However, in the last 3 months, two friends have had CIs, another is planning to have one, and yet another is thinking about it. The one thinking about it is a friend I’ve always considered to have a strong non-conformist Deaf identity.

Why is it happening? Why are my friends so eager to be able to “hear” all of a sudden? Aren’t they proud to be Deaf any more?

Action on Hearing Loss

The RNId’s £320,000 rebranding has sickened me. Hell bent on a mission to cure deaf people, while providing communication and social care services which contradict it’s new vision, the RNId, now known as Action on Hearing Loss, is portraying Deaf people as freaks of nature who are all desperate to be cured.

I abhor the whole concept of AOHL. It stinks. It’s a massive encroachment on my self-esteem and self-worth as a human being. And worst of all, AOHL is just a brand; the RNId is still the RNId – have a look at the footer on the new AOHL website or on the Charity Commission’s website if you don’t believe me – which means that they still profess to represent Deaf people!

And yet, there are Deaf camps who are welcoming this change of focus. *shudder*


Deaf4Life is currently consulting its members to consider a change of name. The options are “Deaf Forum” or “Hearing Loss Forum”. I’d be happy with “Deaf Forum” but “Hearing Loss Forum” makes me shudder.

The moderators say that hard of hearing people are put off joining the forum because it says “Deaf”. Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t think hard of hearing people need to belong to a community. They are hearing. End of. They may have deteriorating hearing for various reasons but they are predominantly hearing. With some assistance from hearing aids, they don’t face the barriers and discrimination Deaf people have to put up with on a day-to-day basis.

The fact that hard of hearing people may not necessarily meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 – a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities – speaks volumes (no pun intended).

Why are Deaf people pandering to the majority? There are an estimated 125,000 Deaf sign language users in the UK according to the latest GP Survey. That’s compared to 4 million hard of hearing or deafened people (according to AOHL’s revised figures from 8.9 million!).

As a minority, Deaf people need their own space without an invasion of hard of hearing people. Why can’t they go and create their own forum if they’re so desperate to belong to a community?

What to do?

If there was ever a time for Deaf people to unite and present a united force, it is NOW.

We NEED the Federation of Deaf People to reform and fight for our rights. We need Deaf organisations like the British Deaf Association and the Royal Association for Deaf people to make a stand.

I’m worried; very worried.


Deaf, hubby to Rachel, dad to Corey, Libby and Emily, Solicitor, Lecturer in Legal Practice at University of South Wales, PhD student at University of Leicester.

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18 Responses

  1. Anton says:

    After watching the deaf short film “The End”, I mused about how some cultures vanished because of the adoption of Western Civilisation ways or simply converting to English language.

    For some extinct cultures, the fundamental base was the language, if no one speak it anymore the entire culture can die out, or at least a part of the culture.

    That led me to question whether is Deaf Culture based on Sign Language itself, or on the ‘disability’ of Deafness?
    If it is based on Sign Language, then it would be able to continue surviving even if Deafness is ‘cured’.
    However if it is based on ‘disability’ of Deafness, then it will become extinct as technology advances.

    So here is my question to you and all other deaf people around the world;
    Is Deaf World, Deaf Culture based on the bonding between people who are Deaf, or based on the bonding between people who can use sign language?
    Which should it be? Should we welcome and encourage CI people, Hard of Hearing, to adopt and embrace Sign Language and Deaf Culture?

  2. Cate says:

    Many years ago, discussing the CI with an older member of the Deaf community (one quite involved in the political scene), I remember he commented “It was the same with hearing aids… every hated them and fought them when they started to become more widely used with children… then they started to accept them, and now they are commonly used and accepted in the Deaf community.”

    It is an unfortunate side effect of CIs (and to a lessor extent hearing aids), that instead of there being a clear cut “I have a hearing loss but can cope ok in hearing groups/community” and “I have a hearing loss but can’t cope in hearing groups/community”, now there is increasing grey areas of “I can hear in groups in a quiet environment, but not in a noisy environment”… “I can hear one to one, but not on the phone”… and so on. And with every generation and improvement in technology, the potential of the CI grows, and as it remains difficult to access interpreters and so on, it is tempting to do what one can to make life more accessible.

  3. Cassandra says:

    “Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t think hard of hearing people need to belong to a community. ”

    Your attitude is precisely why we choose mainstream. I have faced more discrimination in the Deaf community than I ever have in the hearing community. At the very least, mainstream tries to accommodate our limitations.

    Be proud of being Deaf? Be proud of getting a cold? Celebrate your schizophrenia? Be a moron, who has such a chip on their should about missing a sense that they need to call themselves a linguistic minority? Um, sure…. You still can’t hear.

    Oh, guess what… As someone who has had a profound hearing loss since they were 6… Neither can I! Get over yourself. It’s a hearing loss, not a freaking lifestyle.

  4. Des says:

    Two possible new vocabulary sign for AOhL:

    Sign 1:
    Make an “F” hand shape with your left hand in front of your chest with the palm facing away from you. With your right hand, make a “D” hand shape. Insert your right index finger into the hole made by the thumb and first finger of your left hand.

    Sign 2: (clearing your ear out of wax enabling you the ability to hear again!)
    1) Make an “F” hand shape with your left hand in front of your chest with the palm facing away from you.
    2) With your right hand, make an “I” hand shape.
    3) Insert your right little finger into the hole made by the thumb and first finger of your left hand with the palm facing down.
    4) Turn your right wrist so that the palm faces upwards and the little finger strokes the inside of the left index finger.
    5) Repeat step 4 several times.

  5. Tony Nicholas says:

    Anton, there’s heaps of stuff posted on the net and published that will answer your questions about Deafness, Sign Language and Deaf Culture..

    And Cassandra, yes, sign langauge is a fully fledged language and deafness can be a culture, and lifestyle, search the net on culture and etc…..

  6. Tony Nicholas says:

    PS Cassandra, and I speak as someone who grew up with the idea of deafness as a disability and disscovered into acceptance of my Deafness, sign langauge and deaf culture….

  7. Saltbar says:

    Hi Cassandra – you are clearly irked by Rob’s posting above. But at the same time, I fear you have proven Rob’s point. Not wishing to make assumption, can I ask if you one of the signing loss people?

    P.S. Apologies, this box doesn’t allow me to do the strike-thru thingy on the ‘loss’

  8. Rob says:

    Cassandra, thanks for your comment. I agree with Saltbar that your comment actually proves the point I’m making, and it seems to me that you are rather angry; whether it’s simply because you feel the Deaf community are discriminating against you or whether you are angry because you are for some reason unable to accept that you have a Deaf identity, I’m not sure.

    Now, you’d think from my post that I’ve been Deaf since birth. Far from it. I have been profoundly deaf since birth and was brought up oral. I have reasonable speech and excellent lipreading skills. I can function more or less reasonably well in the hearing world.

    However, working for RAD from 2003, I’ve become fluent in BSL and acquired a strong Deaf identity. Nonetheless, my home life is predominantly oral. My wife is also profoundly deaf and oral. My in-laws also have a varying range of deafness and all are oral.

    So really, you and I are not so different. The difference is: I’m happy in my own skin as a Deaf person. I don’t feel a need to try and be “hearing”. I am sick of the comments and attitudes of ignorant hearing people I encounter on almost a daily basis, but I don’t let it get to me because I am happy in my own skin.

    Now, I stand by my assertion that hard of hearing people don’t need to belong to the Deaf community. What I find interesting is how you consider yourself hard of hearing (which prompted you to say the Deaf community are discriminating as you), although you go on to say you’ve been profoundly deaf since the age of 6. To me, you are NOT hard of hearing.

    I am sorry you feel you’ve been discriminated against by the Deaf community. I rather suspect this is probably because you don’t appear to be a BSL user. Am I right? To be fair, white people wouldn’t expect to be part of a black community unless they were black; straight people can’t expect to be part of a gay community unless they’re gay etc. You can’t really expect to be part of the Deaf community unless you accept that you have a Deaf identity and embrace it’s culture. BSL is a part of that, but not the be all and end all.

    If it was up to me, you’d be welcomed with open arms just so that you can get the exposure you need to become happy in your own skin.

  9. John Walker says:

    I have yet to see a Deaf person tell a hard of hearing/oral deaf/hearing loss person that they are not welcome. They only ask, “can you sign?”

    It seems that they are holding onto a myth in order to support their current identity. ‘I am in the hearing world because Deaf people don’t want me.’ What balderdash.

  10. Daniel Webster says:

    You should watch The End as well!

  11. Saltbar says:

    I do roll my eyes when these people play the discrimination card. I am not saying it doesn’t happens but, at the same time, it is not unique to the Deaf Community. All community groups require effort, energy, understanding and tolerance. Even cricket/creche/pub clubs have the same barriers.

    Cassandra, I didn’t start learning to sign until I was 22. I had an advantage of being associated to a deaf oral school, which kind of opened a few doors for me however from that point onwards, I had to work at it and gain acceptance which comes through language (this kind of answer Anton’s question).

    To use an analogy, if you were to move to France – what is the best way to integrate yourself into the community? I would say learn the language, the mindset and the little tiny details which makes all the difference. You need thick skin.

  12. Cassandra says:

    If you, the so called “Deaf”, want to present yourselves as a mere linguistic minority then you should relinquish the term “Deaf” and return it to it’s rightful owners… Those who have a hearing loss (signing or not).

    Narrow minded audism… Yes, it makes me mad.

    My issue is that the “Deaf” organizations formed to represent and support those who are living with hearing loss, are being monopolized by this sort of attitude and the provision of service is disproportionate.

    People with hearing loss, regardless of their language, require support. To have this removed from them by a fundamentalist minority, in my view is discrimination at its saddest state.

    No I do not know BSL (or Auslan as it is called in Australia). I intend to incorporate it into my university studies in the near future. I have no qualms about my deafness. I presented an academic paper in The 4th World Congress on Mental Health and Deafness in 2009.

    I intend to fight this attitude that is alienating millions of people who are living with a hearing loss. And whether I win or not… I’m not the one who excluded millions of people with a disability from accessing support because they wouldn’t conform to some man-made criteria.

    Sad… Very sad.

  13. tishcat says:

    it saddens me that there is any division at all among people who share a disability.
    I don’t want to get personal, but if you live with deaf people,work with deaf people and socialise with deaf people then obviously your sense of pride in your disability will rise.
    Out in the real world, people have to struggle to cope with something which can literally destroy your life. It can make it difficult(if not impossible) to earn a living, to have a relationship and make friends.
    To hear that someone else is loving their deafness is another nail in the coffin, rather than being uplifting.

  14. MM says:

    Deaf blew it on social sites, now they get lost with the dross that’s there. Real issues are discussed on blogs still. The deaf world is too confused, they either think they are the same as everyone else (They aren’t), or they think they are a special case (They aren’t that either). They’ve gone out into the real world and then got lost…. They do have some eminent people, but they get bogged down with clique’s. D4L is dead it is just ‘deaf’ site that talks non-deaf issues and cut and pasting tweets. I live with deaf people every day, but it doesn’t define me as a deaf person par se, you are what you are.

  15. Rob says:

    Hi Jimmy, just approved it. It was my birthday today so not been checking emails/comments today as regularly as usual.

  16. anonymous says:

    “when children who don’t have a say in the decision to have a CI are forced by parents” – ‘force’ is not the right word for it as children cannot decide as they are too young to understand, so therefore parents have to decide. Just pointing out, that’s all.

  1. 26 June 2011

    […] detailing the exchange of words on, The Future of Deaf4Life and How You Can Help, Are There Any Deaf Left?, on Twitter, and we wait with abated breath for MM’s inimitable input, the irony is, the […]

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