Advantages and Disadvantages

A Small, Close-Knit Community

by Katherine DeLorenzo

"I'm glad I'm Deaf," said Gallaudet graduate Dawn Taylor. "I wouldn't want to be hearing." Why, one wonders, would a deaf person say such a thing? Wouldn't all deaf people rather be hearing if given the chance? Quite the contrary. As hard as it is for hearing people to believe, many deaf people think they are lucky because of the rich social and cultural environment their community offers.

For starters, Deaf people are members of a small and close-knit community. The shared sense of community brings deaf people together in ways that are enriching and rewarding. For example, because many deaf people have friends across the country, they are avid travelers. Deaf-owned travel agencies are kept quite busy by clients eager to criss-cross the country, often for activities such as the National Association of the Deaf conference, deaf softball and basketball games, and other well-attended events. Rare is the deaf person who hasn't left his or her state!

Just as there are deaf people all over the world, there are international clubs and events as well. The World Games for the Deaf allows hundreds of amateur deaf athletes from many countries around the world to compete in Olympics-style athletic competition. Just like the Olympics, the games are held every four years in a different country. Of course, interpreters are needed -- that is, deaf interpreters. When experts fluent in British or Russian Sign Language can't be found, seasoned participants are adept at using a form of communication called "gestuno" which is modeled after Esperanto.

In addition, there are a multitude of religious, social, and charitable organizations established, managed, and attended by deaf people. Rabbinical scholars might find the Wolk Center for Deaf Jewish Studies helpful. If the Deaf Aviators Club isn't your thing, perhaps you'd like to attend a reading given by the National Deaf Literary Society? If flush, you can always donate extra funds to the local Deaf Dalmatians Society chapter, run by -- who else -- a deaf person. And don't forget to pick up a copy of DeafNation, so you'll know when Deaf West Theater or the National Theater of the Deaf will be in town. Looking for an aspiring actor to star in your next film? Don't forget to fax a note to the Deaf Entertainment Guild.

So the next time a hearing person says it's a hardship to be deaf, just count all of the advantages on your fingers. Unlike a hearing person who doesn't sign, you won't have to stop at ten.


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