Deaf Awareness Week

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Since 1951, the last full week (Sunday through Saturday) of September has been designated Deaf Awareness Week.

Deaf Awareness Week is a time to promote deaf culture and heritage and the use of American sign language. There will be programs across the nation, including library displays, open houses at residential schools and exhibit booths at shopping malls. The observance occurs during the week noting the 19th anniversary of signing into law of the Americans with Disabilities Act. More than 41 million people across the nation have some level of disability (about 15 percent of the population 5 and older). About 1 million adults report not being able to hear conversations at all. Nearly 60 percent of people age 21 to 64 with difficulty hearing have jobs.

Deaf Awareness Week Objectives

The purpose of Deaf Awareness Week is to educate communities about the many issues the deaf population face during everyday life, as well as to honor the history and culture of people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing...specifically:

  • To differentiate between misconception and fact about deaf and hard of hearing people and deaf culture.
  • To understand the differences in the attitudinal approaches to being deaf or hard of hearing by the hearing public and by deaf or hard of hearing people themselves.
  • To learn about types, degrees, and causes of hearing loss and other audiological information.
  • To become familiar with terminology related to being deaf or hard of hearing.
  • To become familiar with sign language and other ways deaf and hard of hearing people communicate.
  • To understand the functions of assistive devices used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • To better understand an interpreter’s role.
  • To learn about the types of educational programs and support services that are available to deaf and hard of hearing children.
  • To gain an understanding of the psychosocial aspects of being deaf or hard of hearing.
  • To become familiar with the services and resources that are available to the deaf and hard of hearing community.
  • To learn about communicating with deaf and hard of hearing people.
  • To have a better understanding of deaf culture.
  • To recognize that “Deaf People Can Do Anything Except Hear!”
  • American Sign Language

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    American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, complex language that employs signs made with the hands and other movements, including facial expressions and postures of the body. It is the first language of many deaf North Americans, and one of several communication options available to deaf people. ASL is said to be the fourth most commonly used language in the United States.

    The exact beginnings of ASL are not clear. Many people believe that ASL came mostly from French Sign Language (FSL). Others claim that the foundation for ASL existed before FSL was introduced in America in 1817. It was in that year that a French teacher named Laurent Clerc, brought to the United States by Thomas Gallaudet, founded the first school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. Clerc began teaching FSL to Americans, though many of his students were already fluent in their own forms of local, natural sign language. Today's ASL likely contains some of this early American signing. Which language had more to do with the formation of modern ASL is difficult to prove. Modern ASL and FSL share some elements, including a substantial amount of vocabulary. However, they are not mutually comprehensible.

Educating Your Neighbors about Deaf Awareness Week

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Many of your neighbors may benefit from a better understanding of deaf neighbors and American Sign Language!  The Deaf Awareness Week in September is an excellent opportunity to organize a deaf awareness educational event for your community.

If an organized event is not reasonable, consider creating an educational display for your health center, community center, pool, club house, park, or wherever your neighbors congregate.

Neighborhood Link suggests the teaching tools from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

These resources are produced by the U.S. Government and are therefore not bound by typical copyright laws.  You may duplicate and distribute them in your efforts to educate your neighbors.

Free Publications To Use In Your Neighborhood

Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
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