Reply To: ”Person with an Impairment”

  • frankmondelli

    October 14, 2021 at 6:08 am

    I’ve always struggled with what kind of terminology to refer to myself as. I prefer “unilateral hearing impairment” (which means deaf in one ear, and I have an impairment in my “good” ear as well), but most people don’t know what that means. If I say Deaf, hearies will generally think I’m “completely” deaf, and until recently I’ve hesitated calling myself Deaf to Deaf community members because I grew up without sign language and my sign language skills (whether ASL or JSL) are not good enough to use only sign. However, I’ve recently embraced calling myself Deaf since, as others have noted, it’s more about designating a way of life or cultural outlook as opposed to a demarcator of any specific physical embodiment, and my perspective is that Deaf culture is big enough to include a diversity of embodiments and fluencies with sign. Calling myself Deaf is my way of aligning myself with struggles for access and community care and my way of acknowledging the personal struggles and ways of living I have experienced throughout my life. Some would disagree, though. There’s always an argument over what the “right” things to say are, and I generally defer to whatever people are comfortable with in any given situation.

    The basic gist is that “Deaf” is a cultural connotater, “deaf” is a physical reference to a spectrum of hearing impaired sometimes classified as “profound,” and “D/deaf” is a way to refer to both. “Person with a hearing impairment,” “hard of hearing,” “hearing impaired” are generally used not necessarily at the exclusion of a Deaf identity but moreso emphasizes a physical embodiment of partly-hearing and partly-deaf.

    And this is just English! There’s a whole other parallel conversation in Japanese, of course 🙂

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