ridicuLIST: All Deaf People Know Sign Language

Posted by: Staff Writer on Jan. 8, 2014

All black people listen to rap. All Americans speak English. All Swedish people eat Swedish fish. All Asians excel in math. Every culture is plagued by stereotypes, and Deaf Culture is no exception. “All Deaf people know sign language” is one of them.

This misconception, often held by hearing people, is ironic … since it is often hearing folks who create the audist structures that reduce Deaf or hard of hearing childrens’ exposure to ASL.

Think of it as the “Nature versus Nurture” argument. Nurture may have different ideas for what nature gave us: Deaf ears.

Alas, mainstreaming (putting deaf students in the same class as hearing students) is commonplace. According to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD):

A reality check shows that close to 90% of our deaf and hard of hearing students are now mainstreamed. The draft stresses the importance of schools and programs for the deaf serving as statewide resource centers, which promote collaborative partnerships with local school districts and ensure high quality deaf educational services.

Another whopping statistic: At least 90% of deaf children are born into hearing families; only 7% are born into deaf families. The Gallaudet Research Institute found that 72% of families with children who use sign language, don’t use sign language with their children.

The math all adds up to this: Not all deaf people sign, because of little or no exposure to signed environments! Many use other communication methods like speechreading, or using pen and paper.

Some mainstreamed deaf and hard of hearing children venture bravely into a Deaf Community (or take an ASL class) in college or later in adulthood. When they do, they’ve gotten a taste of the rich culture and language that the U.S. school system has shielded them from - either by accident or design.

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