ASLPerhaps you’ve seen the big D for Deaf used in some places and the little d for deaf used in others.  What does that signify?  Big D Deaf is a concept that is fairly new in Deaf Culture, and although everyone agrees that big D deaf should be used to signify someone who is culturally Deaf, many people disagree on what being culturally Deaf means.  For instance take two seemingly similar groups, Children of Deaf Adults (Codas) and Hard of Hearing people.  They both have close ties to the Deaf Community and they both can hear at least a little bit.

Are Codas considered culturally Deaf?  Many people, when reviewing the “rules” for determining capital D Deafness, think that they should be.  They are recieving Deaf Culture straight from their parents, and don’t have to learn it later in life as many deaf adults born to hearing parents have to.  In many ways they understand the ins and outs of Deaf Culture best from having experienced it so intimately as children.  By all criteria set forward in defining the culturally Deaf, they would be included.  In the Deaf world, however, Codas are often not considered Deaf at all.  The fact remains that they can hear, and that many of them leave the Deaf world to pursue lives hearing people live.  Even Codas who choose to remain in the Deaf world are looked on as not full members of the community due to their hearing ability.

If not being able to hear is the deciding factor, Hard of Hearing people should not be included as Deaf.  Many Hard of Hearing people do call themselves Deaf with a capital D, and are accepted as full members of Deaf society.  Usually these Hard of Hearing people have Deaf friends, go to Deaf Events, participate fully in Deaf culture and lead much of their lives as a Deaf person would.  Even though they can hear, they are still considered Deaf by the Deaf community.  Then again, there are Hard of Hearing people who call themselves just that, and don’t identify as Deaf at all.

In all my reading, every criteria put forward to explain what culturally Deaf means doesn’t apply in at least one situation and usually more.  I think the best measure of capital D Deafness came from my deaf ASL2 professor.  She said “If you were to tell me who you are, what would you say first?”  I would describe myself as a White American Christian Scientist, therefore I am not culturally Deaf.  My professor would describe herself as a Korean American who is deaf, therefore she is not culturally Deaf either.  I’ve found, in my limited experience, that this test works really well.  If you say “Deaf” first, you can always bet it’s with a capital D.