A time to highlight & honor the unique needs, struggles, & vibrant culture of the deaf & hard-of-hearing community
If you or a loved one is deaf or hard of hearing, you probably already know that September marks Deaf Awareness Month.
If you’re new to this national observance, you’ve come to the right place!
In today’s article, you’ll find interesting facts about the deaf community, tips to spread awareness, and fun and meaningful ways to celebrate Deaf Awareness Month.
Deafness in the United States
In the spirit of spreading awareness, we’d like to share some facts about the deaf and hard-of-hearing community that might surprise you.
For example, deafness may be more prevalent in the United States than you think. Out of every thousand children, two to three are born with some level of hearing loss in one or both ears.
And while you might be inclined to think that deaf children are more frequently born to deaf parents, get this:
Over 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents.
And when you look at all Americans over twelve years of age, 13%—or one in eight—struggle with hearing loss in both ears.
These numbers tell us that hearing loss isn’t just some rare occurrence. It’s something that affects millions of people in the United States and around the world.
The sources for all of the above statistics can be found on the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website.
The Silent Struggle
Every day, people who are deaf or hard of hearing encounter unique hurdles that hearing people often never even consider.
The most obvious of these is communication.
From the world of education to workplace environments—even something as “simple” as conversing with loved ones—there are nearly always barriers to communication and accessibility for those in the deaf community.
For example, remember how 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents? Well, a shocking 70% of these parents don’t learn sign language to communicate with their children.
This means that the majority of deaf children go without much—if any—exposure to language in their homes.
This is often the case because many hearing parents count on assistive technologies like hearing aids and cochlear implants to fix or improve their child’s hearing enough to make spoken language possible.
While these tools definitely make a difference for many people in the deaf community, unfortunately, things don’t always work out that way, which is where American Sign Language (ASL) comes in.
As you can imagine, the mainstream education system isn’t always a viable option for people who are deaf. It often depends on the severity of their hearing loss and the level of accessibility available at their local schools.
Some mainstream schools can assign ASL interpreters to students with hearing loss, which is enough in many cases. In others, parents may enroll their children in both a mainstream school and a school for the deaf at the same time for a more specialized approach.
Limited accessibility is also an issue in the workplace, creating hurdles as early in the process as job interviews.
Although companies are legally required to hire an ASL interpreter if necessary, some still place that responsibility on the prospective employee.
This is just one example of the discrimination people with hearing loss face on a daily basis.
Some employers simply aren’t willing to accommodate them or treat them as equals, viewing their hearing loss as an inconvenience or a liability.
But that’s what Deaf Awareness Month is all about:
Bringing visibility to these issues so that we can provide support to the deaf community and advocate for a more inclusive society.
How to Celebrate Deaf Awareness Month
Want to participate but not sure how? We’ve got you covered.
Below are some fun and supportive ways to participate in Deaf Awareness Month:
- Watch deaf films and documentaries.
- Find and support deaf-owned businesses in your area.
- If you have a friend or loved one with hearing loss, you could learn some sign language to show your support and connect with them on a deeper level.
- Raise your voice for deaf accessibility and empowerment. Consider donating to organizations that fight for the deaf community or advocating for improved accessibility, education, and workplace protections.
- If you know someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, ask if they’re willing to share their stories about living in a hearing world. Understanding their perspective will open your mind to what the millions of people with hearing loss go through every day. It’ll also allow you to spread awareness by sharing their stories with friends and family.
Deaf Awareness Month is a time to celebrate the deaf community’s achievements, resilience, and contributions to society despite the challenges they face every day.
However you get involved, know that your voice is a powerful ally in the movement for deaf empowerment and accessibility!