Deaf studies

Reframing from hearing loss to Deaf-gain

The deconstructive idea of "deaf gain" contrasts with the old phonocentric definition of the term "hearing loss" and its attitude of "a loss".

Deaf-gain is defined as "a reframing of 'deaf' as a form of sensory and cognitive diversity that has the potential to contribute to the greater good of humanity." (H-Dirksen Bauman, 2009)

The term Deaf-Gain was coined by U.K. artist Aaron Williamson (1960-) in 1998 as "a counter-emphasis to "hearing loss" in his lecture at the University of California San Diego. Ref

It looks at the "bioethical values of biodiversity, cultural diversity, cognitive diversity and other contributions to the diversity of humanity." (Bauman)

The benefits of being Deaf

On the biological level, the advantages are enhanced sight (sharper vision, larger peripheral vision, etc), mental imagery (rotation, etc.), and facial recognition. More sensitive on the tactile level.

On the linguistic level, sign language brings significant ideas and theories to linguistics about the nature of language. Another, sign language has a rich system of classifiers that can describe objects or other visual forms in details. Sign language can use cinematic devices, producing cinematic-like stories.

In hard science, neuroscience studies bring insights about the nature of language, in which language is not central to speech. In neuroscientist Dr. Petitto's words, the brain cannot tell the difference between hands and lips when it comes to language.

On the cultural level, Deaf globe-trotters have a knack of communication strategies with other people of different languages. Environmental design (known as "Deaf Space") is contributed in the eye of Deaf. Film (cinematic techniques, etc.) and poetry are also contributed in the eye of Deaf.

On the psychological level, Deaf people are good at reading body language. They scan their environment faster. If something seems off, they notice.

Everyday examples of Deaf gain

Some of these are Deaf gain examples of how Deaf people contribute to society.

The football huddle that you see in NFL originated by Deaf football players of Gallaudet in the late 19th century (1862 or 1864).

Deaf professional baseball player William "Dummy" Hoy (1862-1961), who played for the Cincinnati Reds team, introduced the baseball signals (e.g. ball, strike, safe-out) to Major League Baseball.

Captions, advocated by Deaf activists, are now beneficial for everyone, including hearing immigrants, hearing people in doctor offices and pubs, etc.

A Deaf pediatric nurse notes, "Between better vision and touch senses and not hearing the patient crying, I'm great at IVs!"

FBI hired a deaf superb-lipreader Sue Thomas to serve, originally as a fingerprint examiner, then as a lipreader, watching surveillance videos that didn't contain audio track and transcribing the dialogues from lipreading. This inspired the TV series "Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye".

Mexican police had to find innovative ways to bring the crimes down. They hired a group of 20 deaf police officers (nicknamed the "Angels of Silence") for their heightened visual abilities to monitor the streets with security cameras in the Mexican city of Oaxaca. They detect visual cues that seemed off, pay attention to the visual periphery, sometimes lipread, perceive suspicious body language. It improved responses to the scenes.

"My hearing boyfriend would ask me where the items (e.g. scissors) are. I knew where they were by simply noticing things in the environment." Another, "When I wanted to buy a house and brought a Deaf friend with me, we had a tour and left. Then I talked to my friend who saw every detail I missed! They knew where every window was and little details I didn’t even see. Bringing my [deaf] friend helped a lot!"

A hearing college professor: "When I had a Deaf student, I re-worked a lot of my lessons to make them more accessible (video captions, handouts, slides with terms for interpreters, etc). I quickly saw that my non-Deaf students benefited a LOT from the stuff that I originally did for my Deaf student. Because of that Deaf student, I'm a better teacher now.

"In my hearing opinion, doing K-12 math in ASL is so much smoother when you can set up a problem in the spatial form in front of you rather than in linear English.

Some hearing teachers here and there in public schools use fingerspelling (American manual alphabet) in their spelling lessons.

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of public schools started using sign language for the anthems ("O Canada" in Canada) and probably "The Star Spangled Banner" in the U.S. too.

Signers can chat through the window with another signing interlocutor whether it's inside/outside train, building, car, etc.

Likewise, signers can talk with another signing interlocutor in the water underneath in a swimming pool or in the sea or ocean (e.g. snorkeling and scuba diving). My swimmate, who learned ASL from me in our competitive swimming years, later worked in scubadiving and taught his colleagues some sign language.

Deaf people and signers can talk in a library with a rule "No talking."

And so on...

That is

Deaf people are an important part of biodiversity as well as cultural diversity as a cultural-linguistic group for their significant contributions.

Related posts

Brainbooster benefits of being Deaf.

Related post: Deaf Lens: a cinematographic perspective of Deaf.

Re-defined term hearing loss.

New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.

Some tutorial pages are a mix of free and premium versions. Access to premium content and links below are available in the PatronPlus subscription. More links/posts will be added from time to time.

Expressing needs and wants

  1. Making commands or requests

Talking about activities

  1. Frequency of time: how often?

Are you able to carry everyday conversations in ASL? Are you a student in the intermediate levels and beyond, who wishes to boost up your signing skills? You've come to the selected tutorial series. (Some premium content are available to PatronPlus membership.)

Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.