Are deaf people disabled?

Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome. Today I want to talk about deaf people and their relationship with the term “disabled” along with where I stand on this subject. I’m making this video in part because of a comment on my previous video that was somewhat rude to another commenter that did absolutely nothing wrong. You could say that this is a very controversial topic in the deaf community, so I just want to again emphasize that this is *my* view on this. This does not mean everyone else in the deaf community thinks the same way as I do.

Why don’t Deaf people consider themselves disabled? Deafness is not viewed as a loss, but rather a gain. There’s a whole community, culture, and language, with an identity built in. People take pride in being Deaf, and have no desire to change it. The only issue with wider society is communication barriers, not the hearing ability. Remember this, I will come back to it.

Why *are* deaf people disabled? This is obvious to most people: we can’t hear, therefore we are disabled. Deaf people argue against this definition because they say that we’re healthy, we function just fine, it’s that people don’t know sign. Ahem. Your internalized ableism is showing a little bit there. Anyway, while it’s true that we’re able-bodied, we literally cannot learn to hear. If the communication barrier was the only thing, then wouldn’t people from other countries that moved here be considered disabled to start with if they didn’t know English? They’re not, and over time, they can learn English if they choose to. So… There has to be something else. Ah yes, being deaf. It’s correct that if everyone knew sign, and everything had captions, being deaf wouldn’t be an issue at all, but that’s not the case. Therefore, we are disabled by our circumstances and environment.

What’s my personal view on this? Let’s go back to the rude commenter I mentioned. I can’t see the original comment, because the poster deleted it, but it said something about the disabled community and by implication, was including deaf people in it. The rude commenter basically was very snippy and said that they were in the wrong for saying Deaf people are included in the disabled community. I was going to reply and shut that down, but alas. So if it’s not clear by now, I consider deaf people to also be disabled. Yes, I will say I’m a deaf person first. That’s because it more accurately reflects my own personal experience, my needs, and immediately communicates to you what I might need in way of accommodations. Speaking of accommodations, it infuriates me to no end when I see these very same people, insisting that Deaf people aren’t disabled, whip out the ADA whenever their needs aren’t being met. The Americans with Disabilities Act literally has disability in the name, and covers a wide range of accessibility needs, including interpreters. So if we truly aren’t disabled, then we shouldn’t be covered under the ADA, no? Oh, what’s that? We need those protections? Well, gosh darn it, guess we’re disabled then!

In all seriousness, deaf people have a lot of parallel goals with the wider disability community. We all want access to things that will make our lives easier, make it possible for us to comfortably participate in society, and not just be pushed to the side and forgotten about. I also want to add, by saying that deaf people aren’t disabled because we have a culture and language, you’re excluding all those who don’t know sign, became deaf later in life, and so many more on the wide spectrum of deafness.

One last thing, and it’s a very minor thing that I’m sure most people overlooked. For a while now, any time I say deaf, whether that’s in my captions, text messages, posts, and so on, I don’t use the big D anymore. I did in this video to be clear that I was talking about culturally and signing Deaf people, but otherwise, it’s been lowercase d. In my view, because we are disabled too, and I want to include everyone who doesn’t fit in that small cultural/linguistic box, I use the lowercase when I’m speaking about the wider community.

Disability rights are deaf rights too. Don’t be an asshole. Leave your thoughts in the comments, and keep it civil.

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Note: Thanks to Phelan’s videos (signinngwolf on TikTok) for helping me formulate and structure my thoughts a bit. I agree with a lot of what they say in their mini-series, and have borrowed some of it for this video.

Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

2 thoughts on “Are deaf people disabled?

  1. Thank you very much for that video and explanations, interesting point of view, I’m not from unites states but I could understand some of your sign language.
    I’m deaf too, sometime I cannot see me as a disabled person, but, the word itself “dis-abled”, have a simply meaning which is “not being able” to hear, then I’m a disabled person.
    I think the word “disabled” is used to be viewed as a “negative” meaning, due of prejudge, I think the people don’t want being “tagged” by that word because don’t want to being or feeling lower than others, I think it’s just a matter of pride…
    I don’t know if I explained well or enough my point of view, but thank you for your thinking.
    Good luck!

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