The Do’s and Don’ts of Deaf Culture


Cameron Bessette, Reporter

When learning to sign or even when interacting with the Deaf community, remember to respect the individual and their culture. To know what to do and what not to do, first you need to know a little bit about Deaf culture.

Jana Regal (real name and school withheld), a freshman at Granger, signed; “Deaf. With a capital “D” is the culture and community that involves those who are deaf and their loved ones. deaf. Lowercase “d” is what we physically are, we cannot hear.” (interpreted by her mother Cammie Regal, real name also withheld).

“The Deaf community does not see being deaf as a disability but as a culture.” said Rita Bouillon, principal of Kauri Sue Hamilton elementary.

Much like a foreign exchange student from France would be used to a different language and traditions, deaf individuals come with their own culture. Deaf culture has its own history, traditions, values, rules and languages. Their rules are different than the rules from the rules displayed by other cultures.

As daunting as it may seem to interact with an entirely new culture there are fairly straightforward guidelines that allow beginners to successfully navigate the Deaf world. These guidelines can be split into three parts; do’s, don’ts, and remembers.

The do’s are easy to remember. ASL teacher, Sue Brett said, “During introductions, always introduce yourself first and simply fingerspell your name… When fingerspelling or Signing, keep a steady hand… Maintain eye contact and make your approach.” Brett just spelled out the three basic rules of the Deaf community; introduce yourself and spell your name, keep your hands steady and maintain eye contact. These are simple but essential.

As with any culture, the lists of don’ts is slightly longer than the do’s. Don’t speak in a signing zone, a location set aside for deaf communication. When using an interpreter, do not use the phrase “Tell them.” Don’t chew gum or make distracting mouth movements. Don’t stare at conversations between other people, as it is considered eavesdropping.

There is only one reminder. Remember that deaf people are human. Treat them with respect and friendship, they will be patient with you if you are patient enough to communicate with them. The Deaf culture is a beautiful world, just be careful not to hurt any feelings while you explore it.