Deaf Culture Quiz: Are You a Little "d" or Big "D"?

Posted by: Staff Writer on March 10, 2013

If you socialize with deaf and/or hard of hearing people long enough, terms like "little d" and Big "D" will eventually come up during conversations. If you’re from the mainstream, you at first wonder if they're nerding out by arguing about the grammatical necessity of capitalization and lower-case writing.

Alas, 99% of the time that is not the case. What better month than March to learn a little bit more about the difference between the two? Deaf History Month is upon us, and somewhere along the course of our history, the letters “d” and “D” became powerful symbols that show just how culturally diverse a group of +35M deaf/hh Americans can be.

With the 25th anniversary of Deaf President Now! and Switched at Birth’s history all-ASL episode triggering lots of discussion about Deaf Culture, we created a light-hearted quiz to generate awareness. REMEMBER: There is NO right or wrong answer! There is nothing truly “little” or “less than” about a little d, nor do Big “Ds” all fit a certain stereotype.

1) It is the year 2020, and science has finally made a stem cell breakthrough to "cure" deafness. You:

a. Call your doctor and get first in line for the procedure. Your career, marriage, and sanity all depend on it.

b. Cautiously do some research, and decide that you'll stick with a cochlear implant or digital hearing aid for now.

c. Are incredibly offended that anyone, let alone scientists, would consider deafness a disease that needs to be corrected. The NERVE!

2) This describes your frequency of using sign language:

a. Never: You rely on lip reading, and don't have anyone to "practice" ASL with anyway.

b. Not at work, not with your significant other, but when you get your "deaf fix" with friends a couple nights a week.

c. You use it at work, at home, at church ... heck, there isn't a single place in the world where you don’t sign!

3) It’s Monday night. Assuming you’re not out and about, what are you watching?

a. Criminal Minds.

b. Depends on the season. If it’s fall, of course I’m watching football! Otherwise, Switched at Birth.

c. Switched at Birth (and/or Dancing with the Stars, before Marlee Matlin was eliminated).

4) If you watched the all-ASL Switched at Birth, you are in favor of:

a. Letting Carlton admit some hearing students (the opinion of Bay).

b. You’re unsure, because, like Noah, you’re in the middle of the spectrum.

c. Keeping Carlton Deaf-only (the suggestion of Travis).

5) Your Facebook friends list:

a. Has mostly hearing friends with a few hard of hearing or deaf friends.

b. It’s a mixed bag, but I get tagged in mostly deaf gathering photos because I socialize with them the most.

c. Just about everyone on my friends list is either deaf or a hard of hearing acquaintance I’ve met.

6) What best describes your education as a child?

a. Mainstreamed in public schools.

b. A little bit of mainstreamed public school and a little bit of a deaf school or program.

c. I went to a primarily all-deaf school.  

7) Your children are CODAs (Child of Deaf Adult(s)). You:

a. Decide to use your voice and speechread instead of sign language with your child (though you may consider baby sign as a temporary training tool).

b. Use a bit of all, speech, speechreading and sign language.

c. Are insulted when they use sim-com (simultaneous voicing with signing) – and may in fact ban it inside the household. Voices off, my dears!

8) Let’s say you’re single and ready to mingle. What are your relationship preferences: Deaf-Deaf or Deaf-Hearing?

a. I prefer dating a hearing person, for reasons ranging from my mainstreamed background, to security, as well as a desire to broaden my dating options within my city.

b. Doesn’t matter as long as the chemistry is just right – after all, s/he could always take some ASL classes.

c. Deaf-initely deaf! I may or may not even have (or have had) a membership on

9) A waitress is talking too fast to understand and not making eye contact. You stop her, and use this opening line:

a. “huh?"

b. “I’m sorry, but I’m (pick one) deaf or hard of hearing. Can you please slow down and look at me when you talk?”

c. You raise a hand, look them in the eye, and sign “I’m Deaf, slow down” and possibly pull out a notepad.


If you selected mostly a’s, you’re probably hard of hearing

If you selected mostly b’s, you are probably deaf with a little “d”

If you selected mostly c’s, you are probably deaf with a big “D”

Hard of Hearing and Little “d” (deaf):

  • Was likely mainstreamed in school, experiencing isolation during childhood
  • Does not identify strongly with the Deaf Community, but may show interest and awareness of the Culture/language
  • May be more likely to utilize CART (Captioning in Real-Time) than sign language interpreters, if raised oral. May be a late-deafened adult who is learning to adapt via remedial strategies (hearing aids, sign language classes, joining late-deafened social groups)

Big D (Deaf):

  • Has fluency in sign language, and uses it often
  • Sometimes labeled (if not disparagingly) as "militant". Think Travis on Swiched at Birth 
  • Highly involved with the Deaf Community’s social events, political movements, and is up-to-date on technology offered such as Video Relay Services.
  • Often has other deaf friends in other states and countries
  • May have a job related to deaf issues; for example, an ASL instructor, non-profit employee at a deaf center, or owns a deaf-operated small business

The “D/d-bate” has raged for decades, and we invite you to join the discussion. Tell us in the comments below how you scored, and if you agree.



Comment Policy

We’re aware that issues facing the Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing Community can become quite passionate and divided. What can we say, we’re a group of passionate people! While we fully support a community full of passion, we also require that comments are respectful. We think negative attitudes and disrespect are a waste of everyone’s time and energy. This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with people, you just need to do it respectfully. We reserve the right to delete or edit any comments we feel are judgmental, rude, or of attacking nature.


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