Deaf as a linguistic and cultural group

Human rights can be realized only through one’s own language and culture. This is true to all people including deaf people. The term culture is a very broad concept that encompasses the lifestyle, traditions, knowledge, skills, beliefs, norms and values shared by a group of people. It also contributes to the artistic expression of members of that group. As many other different human groups, Deaf people have a culture of their own. They express it through their language, sign language that is very essential part of that culture.

Among members of the Deaf cultural group, it is still common to use the concept of “Deaf World” that includes both Deaf Culture and Deaf Community. Deaf culture is conceptual framework of the Deaf World and the Deaf Community is visible and social part of that world strengthening sense of belonging of its members. Deaf people themselves use the term “Deaf culture” when referring to the customs, values, world view, habits, and rules of behaviour related to their own world.

In fact Deaf culture has existed since deaf people started to communicate with each other. It was developed in a spontaneous way and it forms the foundation of a Deaf person’s identity together with sign language. Features such as endogamy, common language and history, lineages, identification with other members of the group, sense of belonging, own social organisation; in short, awareness of one’s own culture can be found also in other ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups and minorities. Thus, the Deaf do not make an exception from all these groups.

Because the life of Deaf people is entirely based on vision and common language, the culture is also based on visual expression and sign language. Culture is a whole way of living. Deaf people don’t consider themselves as disabled but rather a cultural group with their own traditions and culture. Everything that could improve and enrich Deaf people’s quality of life is considered culture. Performing arts based on visual sense and sign language is one field of Deaf culture.

Deaf culture is a process in which the values, beliefs and customs are transmitted from one generation to another. Being aware of one’s own cultural traditions bolsters one’s identity and facilitates adapting to other cultures and environment.

Deaf culture, Deaf Community, Deaf World, Deaf History, Deaf Art, Deaf Identity, Sign Language, and strong sense of belonging are core elements that make the Deaf group as
the linguistic and cultural group.