By Valerie James Abbott
September 21, 2022
Before my youngest child was identified with hearing loss, I didn’t know anything about Deaf Awareness Month. If I’m being honest, I didn’t know very much about a lot of things.
- What’s the difference between Deaf and deaf?
- What’s the difference between Deaf, deaf and hard of hearing?
- What exactly is the Deaf Community?
- What is Deaf Culture?
- Where does my daughter fit into all of this?
These were just a few of a thousand questions I would ask in the weeks, months and years after the doctor came into the waiting room, following her sedated ABR test (auditory brainstem response), and informed us that our child had a permanent bilateral moderate sloping to severe sensorineural hearing loss. No known cause. No known time of onset. No family history.
My biggest takeaway over the last 15 years since that waiting room conversation is that Deaf Awareness is much bigger than the month of September. It’s much bigger than our family, our community and our country. Deaf Awareness is best approached with kind curiosity, an open heart and mind, and respect for everyone who lives their lives as a Deaf, deaf and/or hard of hearing person. Different stories, different choices, different paths.
If you look at how various local and national agencies and organizations leverage and promote Deaf Awareness Month, you’ll notice that each of them highlight something different. For some, it is the beautiful visual language of American Sign Language (ASL). For others, it is a focus on language and literacy for Deaf, deaf and hard of hearing children. And still, some groups shine the spotlight on important leaders within the Deaf Community or historical facts that have influenced Deaf Culture.
Those of us with typical hearing have the benefit of taking in these gifts of information and becoming more informed, more supportive, more inclusive: more aware.
For me, it took this new and unexpected aspect of my child, that was discovered when she was a toddler, to spark a sense of wonder in me. But, maybe you are already wondering. That’s good.
This September, I invite you to learn one thing you didn’t know about what life is like for individuals who are Deaf, deaf or hard of hearing. I encourage you to read up on hot topics within the Deaf Community and dive deep into their perspectives. I suggest learning more about the most helpful or appropriate ways to interact with people who might not hear or communicate in the same way you or I do.
Imagine if we all did this – not just in September, but all the time. Everyone would benefit from it. I know I still do.