If you have noticed from my writing, whether it’s here on this website or on social media, you may have noticed that I write “d/Deaf” in that format…and no, it’s not a typo.
- deaf ❌
- Deaf ❌
- d/Deaf ✅
This allows me to incorporate both the small ‘d’ and capital ‘D’ at the same when talking about this particular topic. This is not necessarily for convenience but mainly for identity and inclusion purposes.
But what is the difference between deaf and Deaf?
“Deaf” with Capital ‘D’
People who describes themselves as Deaf with the “uppercase D” tends to match most of the following:
- identify themselves as culturally Deaf and part of the Deaf community
- they haven’t “lost” anything nor do they like to be labelled “hearing impaired” as they don’t see it as a medicial condition nor is it a disability. Instead, they see it as part of their identity
- they have a common use of sign language and on most occasions, it’s their primary sources of communication
- sign language tends to be their first language, but not always
- they have fully immersed themselves in the Deaf culture
- may have attended Deaf school
- takes great pride in their Deaf identity
“deaf” with Small ‘d’
People who describes themselves as deaf with the “lowercase d” tends to match most of the following:
- they are not, chooses not or does not associate themselves as part of the Deaf community
- they may have also had little to no exposure to the Deaf community, perhaps due to their upbringings
- hearing loss is referred as a medical condition
- some may refer it as a disability
- they may have gradually lost their hearing and have not yet integrated to the community
- their first or primary choices of communication is not a sign language
- integrates with the hearing world and potentially feels more comfortable there
“d/Deaf” with Big and Small ‘d’
When referring to both sides of the equation together, writing “d/Deaf” or “D/deaf” can fit either category. This is particularly useful if you don’t know how a particular person prefers to identify themselves as, so it’s seen as a more inclusive option.
From my own personal perspectives, I do not mind which one I am labelled. But if we go by what you know of me and from reading about the differences between small and capital ‘D’ above, most people would assume that I am considered to be deaf.
And that makes sense.
I am not profoundly deaf, I am predominantly part of the “hearing world” for now, but that may change in the future. I use oral communication and do not use sign language as my main choice of communication.
You can also argue that I am considered to be hard of hearing or HoH, which is also an appropriate terminology for me too.
I can sympathise with some people when they want to do right but don’t know what’s the right answer when it comes to using the correct terminology.
But unfortunately, there isn’t really the right or wrong way of doing this. Sometimes, you have to ask.
But it can get even more complicated when using “hard of hearing”, which is a known to be a wildly-accepted term to describe someone with a mild to moderate hearing loss, like myself.
On most occasions, a person who is hard of hearing is likely to be labelled as deaf but it’s not uncommon to hear those who have a strong sense of Deaf identity too.
Some people prefer to be called hard of hearing because they are not as deaf as those who are profoundly deaf.
Others don’t care and would rather not break it down or separate d/Deaf with hard of hearing. As far as they are concerned, we are all d/Deaf.
One thing I do not agree with is when Deaf people becomes like gatekeepers to the individual. There are some people who perhaps let their passion gets so aggressive to the point where they decide who should label themselves as Deaf or not.
Nobody has the right to be labelled by the other person. Within reasons, it’s up to the individual concerned to decide how they feel but there are some online groups out there which is aggressive and intimidating rather than supportive and welcoming.
Which is ironic at this day an age where there are already accessibility issues, communication barriers and life challenges that all d/Deaf people have to deal with in the hearing world we live in some shape or form.
But the fact that there are further divisions within the d/Deaf community is crazy and frankly, stupid.
So even though some people call me deaf and hard of hearing, if I do lose my hearing more, became profoundly deaf, use sign language as my primary form communication and integrated fully with the culture, a person in the Deaf community might still call me a fraud or doesn’t think that I should be part of the community.
The fact that I was warned by a fellow deaf person about being involved with the Deaf community tells you the whole story about the unnecessary cultural barriers within the d/Deaf community.
What’s the Correct Identity Name to Use?
If you ask anyone what they prefer, they will have their own individual answers.
Some are more passionate about it than others. Some are flexibile. Some may have changed their viewpoints over the years.
There may not be the perfect way of identifying a person, nor is there a standard way of doing so, but it is more important that you recognise the differences and also understand that the Deaf culture has its own culture and identity.
Much like how you start nationalities like English, Spanish, French and American with a capital letter or other communities like LGBTQ, Black or African-American, the same can be said with Deaf, which is seen as a cultural norm within the community and it’s a proud sense of identity for hundreds of thousands of people.
And those are very important attributes, particularly with those who considers themselves proud to be Deaf. So if you want to be talk about their culture, it is more appropriate to use the capital ‘D’.
But if you do want to focus specifically on deaf people, then that is also appropriate too.
You can use d/Deaf or D/deaf like I do whenever I want to talk about the overall topic in general and do not want to exclude anyone.
But one thing for sure, whether you use big or small ‘d’, it is there for reference and identity purposes and not for inclusion or exclusion.
Which is why on most occasions, I prefer to use d/Deaf to make it more inclusive. Division is not necessary.
If you are someone who is d/Deaf, what other characteristics matches your identity as a deaf or Deaf person?
If you are a hearing person, how familiar are you with the capital and small ‘d’ in d/Deaf?
And how do you feel about the cultural barriers that exists within the Deaf community?
Let me know in the comments below.