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Cultural Model of Deafness

"This term focuses on the shared experiences, histories and, more importantly, the central role that sign language has within the Deaf community. It is this key characteristic that differentiates Deaf and “hearing” people. In the Deaf community we see the two separate cultures as the “hearing world” and “Deaf community”.

The Deaf community is international. What binds Deaf people, despite their different national sign languages, is their shared visual communication, history, cultural activities, and the need for a Deaf “space” where people come together.

The Deaf Cultural Model rejects the “medical definition of deafness” as either a loss or impairment. This is comparable with the Social Model of disability and Disabled people’s rejection of the Medical Model.  Where the Deaf community sometimes depart from the Social Model is around the term “impairment”. For the majority of culturally Deaf people there is no “impairment nor hearing loss”. What makes the British Sign Language (BSL) Deaf community unique has been its campaign to be recognised as a linguistic minority. For the BSL Deaf community the capital “D” is used in a political sense to demonstrate their campaign for cultural and linguistic recognition.

For many members of the Deaf community their shared history is both personal and social. Deaf people will have gone to the same school, in many cases boarding schools where most of their younger lives will have been spent together, and then met again at their Deaf clubs, Deaf social events, reunions and other more personal events.

One of the first things a Deaf person will often ask on meeting, before asking your name, is what school or Deaf club you go to. Making this connection is an important part of any greeting, as it will then help an individual to understand what shared history or people in common you may have."