Deaf Culture

Exploring the Deaf World: Their Cool Tech Devices

Ever think to yourself, how in the world do Deaf people manage in today's world?

Ever wonder how they do the normal day-to-day things we take for granted?

You've probably seen me quote Dr. I. King Jordan, "Deaf people can do anything hearing people can do, except hear." You may have seen it in many places.

Almost instantaneously, hearing people scratch their heads and start trying to list all the things they think Deaf people can't do.

I'm not here to slap your hand with a ruler.

I'm not here to call you names for thinking that it can't possibly be true!

I'm here to show you a glimpse into their world and lives and show you that, yes they can do anything (except hear).

Today, let's take a look at the super cool tech devices they use to navigate their day-to-day lives.

18 (More) Things to Never Say to a Deaf Person!

Do you struggle to know what is the right and wrong thing to say to a Deaf person?

You remember the list of 13 Things to Never Say to a Deaf Person I wrote a while back?

Well, since then I have spoken to some of my Deaf friends and have found more things to add to that list.

This time though, I wanted to add a positive element to it.

In a conversation I had with my husband he said that a lot of times you just don't know anything about Deaf people or that there's even a Deaf culture/community and the things people are doing aren't always because they're being malicious, but because they think they're helping.  People just don't know what the right thing to do is.

It was something to think about.

In this post you'll not only learn what not to do, but what to do!

Learn more of what not to say to a Deaf person. Read on for not just a list of what not to do, but what to do instead!


"Wow you speak so well for a Deaf person."


If you really want to comment on their speech, say it a different way.  The offensive part is "for a Deaf person."


"You must be really smart to be able to talk."


Again, if you want to comment on their speech you could say, "you speak really well." or "You must have worked really hard on your speech."

Any level of speech is hard hard work.  Tons of hours and lessons.  Speech doesn't indicate intelligence.  You may mean well, but make sure what you're saying is actually nice and not demeaning.


"Why don’t you get a cochlear implant?"


You could ask them about the assistive devices they do use.  Or ask them about their decision to not use a CI or hearing aid (if they don't use them).


"Have you thought about getting ear transplants?"


Think before you speak.  There are no such things.


"You have hearing aids, shouldn’t you hear normally now?"


If you're truly wanting to know about their hearing aids, ask them a more in-depth and specific question.  What is their hearing loss?  How effective are their hearing aids?  Do they like them?  What are some of the hard things about using a hearing aid?

Cochlear implants and hearing aids really are a personal decision.

-  CIs are not a cure all.

- You do not hear perfectly like a hearing person does.

- They do not always work.

- They are not reversible.

- The surgery can be incredibly painful to recover from

- There can be complications.

- They are at least $30k. If they are what they want and use, awesome. If they don't, that's awesome too. Be respectful in the way you approach this highly sensitive topic.

Hearing aids mostly amplify the background sounds. You ever watched a movie where the soundtrack was loud, but you couldn't hear the actors? You turn up the volume but you still can't hear.  Or, pretend you're in a crowded cafeteria and you're trying to hear the person across from you.


Assume they know every deaf person in the world – or care that you know someone that knows someone that has a deaf friend


Try to find some other fun ways to connect with them.  They are more than just Deaf or Hard of Hearing.  They like other things too! Promise.


"How can you work if you can’t hear?"


Ask them what they do for a living.


If they ask you to repeat the last sentence and you repeat the first sentence


Pay attention to their request.  Listen to them. It's typically the last sentences that get lost in speech.  People look away, people mumble, their volume fades, or their words run together.  If they ask about a specific part of what you said, repeat only that.


Talk to someone else instead of them.


If you want to speak to a Deaf person and there's a hearing person with them to interpret, still direct your conversation to the Deaf person.  If there isn't you can write what you want to say to them. Do include them in the conversation. They want to contribute just like you do.


"Wow, you don’t look deaf!"


"Wow, it's nice to meet you!"


Take advantage of them.


Treat them as equals.


"Can you read and write?"


Treat them as a "normal" person. They are just as intelligent as you are.


Don’t throw objects or stomp/bang at them to get their attention


Politely tap them on the shoulder. Flick the lights. Wave.


Don’t stand there waiting for their conversation to end or duck through.


If you want to get by and you can't get around them then just say excuse me and walk through quickly.


Exaggerated gestures and mouth movements or move around.


Speak straight on. Look at them, speak normal.  Keep your head facing them and your hands and other objects away from your mouth.


I’m sorry… and give them the "funeral face."


When you find out they're Deaf you don't have to make a comment about it really. If you feel the need, you can say something positive.  There's nothing to be sorry about.  They're not sorry, you don't have to be sorry.  Again, be respectful.


Tell them they’ll be healed if they repent.


Be intelligent.  Deafness does not come from a sin or their parents' sins.  This is just ridiculous and hurtful.  You ought to look at yourself and repent for being a jerk.


"Never mind," or "I'll tell you later."


Include them in the conversation, the TV show, the fun.  If they ask you to repeat something repeat it.  Even if you have to repeat it a few times, please be kind and repeat it until they understand.

Every single Deaf and Hard of Hearing person I have spoken to says this is their #1 don't. They even joked saying it should be banned from ASL and Deaf culture. These words can put great gulfs between families and friends.  It can cause them to feel isolated and unimportant.  Please please please be aware of others.


I heard a lot of stories that were just so sad.  There are just some rude and hurtful people out there.  I don't think they're doing it just to those that are Deaf. I'm sure they treat everyone like that.  That doesn't make it less hurtful though.

I know you always mean well. I know you would never hurt someone intentionally. Don't think I doubt your sincerity or your friendliness.

When you see a person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing please keep these Dos and Don'ts in mind.  If in doubt try to think of what you'd want someone to treat you.  But you know that!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with this simple tweet:

Tweet: I just learned the Dos and Don'ts of talking to a Deaf person.


Is there something you've been wanting to know about people who are Deaf? Please feel free to ask -- no one will judge you here.  I promise.


All GIFs courtesy of

The Accessibility Mistake You Don't Know You're Making

  Do you know how little people think about ensuring that others have equal accessibility?

It's not that they don't care, they just don't think about it.  I'm also not talking about preferential treatment. I'm talking about equal access.

In the online world the Deaf population is being neglected. Find out what you can do to include the Deaf and Hard of Hearing more and stop making this simple accessibility mistake.

Did you know it's pretty easy to make things more accessible?  It is!

What Mistake Are You Making?

You go and watch a movie, a favorite TV show, a funny clip online and it's an enjoyable experience for you (unless you're watching a stupid movie like A.I.).

Enter a Deaf or Hard of Hearing person.

Now, can you imagine the frustration they must feel?

What is the solution?

It's actually very simple.  I'm going to turn this over to a man that says it best.


If you don't watch any other video on this post, please at least watch this one!

I would add to his list of reasons why captioning would be good for you.

  • too much noise in the room (children) and you can't hear your show
  • the show is hard to understand (accents and mumblers)
  • people in other countries can translate the captions into their native language
  • it's better for search ranking (more words for the search bots to read = more keywords)


Can you imagine what that would be like?

What Can You Do?

Now, if you know me, I am an action oriented type of person.  I do not like reading "be this and then this will happen."  It always seems to be so ambiguous and unclear.  Be a "good mom" for instance.  Okay.... sure.  But do they tell me how?  Not really.  Well, at least not in any real actionable steps.

What would be the point of me telling you about #captionTHIS if I didn't give you any real thing you could do?

Here it is.

Are you a vlogger?  Add captions to your videos.   Don't stress so much about the old videos you've made, add those as you have time (ha!).

Do you produce podcasts or webinars?  Get them captioned so you can send a recorded version of your slides (webinars) and a transcript to those that want it.  Or get the meeting transcribed live for those watching you.

Ask others to add captions to their videos.  Contact the major companies that do not provide captioning and bring attention to the movement.

Contact your favorite YouTube channels, celebrities, and anyone else you can think of. Thank them for captioning their videos and ask them to join in the movement.  If they do not caption their videos, send them here!  Now they'll know why they should and how to do it.


Here's a tweet to use:

Tweet: Add captions to your products. Find out how it can benefit you and your audience.


Hey@____, please #captionTHIS: [VIDEO LINK HERE.] Your videos aren't accessible to the Deaf/Hard of Hearing.

How to Add Captions



I've heard good things about CaptionTube

Synchrimedia is a program you purchase, but it looks pretty awesome.  It will loop 4 seconds of your video while you type it out. When you hit enter it goes to the next 4 seconds and loops it. That's pretty nifty.

But... but... but... there's no way I can transcribe an hour long webinar or 90 minute podcast!  You're right, you may not want to do that.  You probably don't have the training to caption or transcribe so it's going to take you a lot longer to do it, especially if you're a hunt-and-peck-typer.

You can hire a transcriber or captioner for your webinars,  podcasts, and longer videos to type out the transcript for you.  Then they send you the file and you're ready to get it into the video.


Okay, I know what you're thinking. Dude, Rochelle, I am small potatoes I do not have the money to do hire out, especially since I don't think there's any Deaf people paying attention to me.

You'd be wrong.  Deaf people don't bust into a blog announcing their Deafness.  Plus, think about how many people that are Deaf and Hard of Hearing who could now come to your site.

There may be a lot of people in your niche, but are there a lot of people that make all of their products and services accessible?

Speaking of.  If you have a service that uses the phone or conference call, you can use VRS services.

You can either call their phone directly (yes, Deaf have phones) and it will be routed through an interpreter who will interpret what they are saying to you and what you say back to them.  You can also contact the individual and they may be able to give you their direct VideoPhone (VP) number.

It really is easy and once you forget the fact that you're talking to an interpreter it's not awkward.

Sum It All Up

Accessibility is something we all could think about.  Adding captions and transcripts is easy to do and is beneficial to many people, including yourself.

I've created a tip sheet for you to help make captioning easier for you! Click to Download!

What The Deaf Can Do: In The Theatre

  People want to know what the Deaf are capable of doing.

Mothers want to know what the future holds for their Deaf child.

I want to take some time to explore the many careers and opportunities that are out there for the Deaf.

Ever wonder what the Deaf can do? They can do anything! Come check out the Deaf in the theatre and see for yourself.

A play's a play

As you know I love the theatre.

You didn't?  Well, now you do.


I recently attended a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, called The Heart of Robin Hood.  

All I knew about the play was its name.  I didn't know what type of a show to expect, all I knew was that I love Robin Hood.

There are many many things I could say about this play.  It was just amazing.  It was held in the Elizabethan Stage, which is a gorgeous outdoor stage.  You walk into a garden and there's a secret theatre just waiting for you beyond the bushes.   Just enchanting.

The energy pulsates through the crowd as you sit down to watch.

The characters were genius.  They were hilarious and yet felt real and vulnerable.  There was great emotion across the spectrum that just seeped into your heart and took you for a ride.

Clearly, I loved it.

A big surprise

Something I didn't expect was Howie Seago.  Howie Seago is an absolutely brilliant actor. Bonus: he's Deaf!  How serendipitous that I was able to attend a play at the OSF (where my book is based) and have a Deaf actor (which is also in my book) be in the very same play I attended.

I truly loved the way they wove his character into the play.  He is Little John, and they had him be Deaf.  They used a crude rendition of sign, that would be pretty accurate for that time period, to communicate.  The other characters used it as well when talking to him.

Howie was flawless and hilarious.  You didn't need to know ASL to understand him.

I don't know how the script was originally written, but it felt like it was intentional for Little John to be Deaf.  It was so seamless and real.  It wasn't just a play where Howie signed and then someone spoke the words he would say, and they didn't have him just try to voice either as though he were hearing.

The way ASL was integrated was truly truly brilliant.

How did they integrate ASL?

Howie is the first and only Deaf actor the OSF has ever had on their stage.    I read several articles on him after I came home from the play.

When in Henry V he was a military commander.  He had his own Royal Interpreter on stage -- a real character -- to follow him around and interpret.

In 2011 he was Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird, who forces his daughter to interpret his perjury in court.  He and his onstage daughter created a "hillbilly" sign language that really added great depth and credibility to his character.

In Music Man he was an ex-con that used sign language with his partner to silently plan out their evil deeds.

To me it is incredible the barriers they are breaking.  He is an actor, not just a Deaf actor.

His roles are being treated as such and not just having him act in Deaf Theatre.  Not that there's anything wrong with being in Deaf Theatre.  It's the fact that he's in roles that are not traditionally Deaf or that don't require a whole Deaf company.  They are integrating ASL and Deafness into the role and making it authentic.


Many people in the Deaf community have flocked to the OSF.  They have 9 signed performances and 26 open captioned performances!

Do you understand how incredible that is!?  Seriously, that is amazing!  9 signed performances and 26 captioned performances!  That is not typical.

Why is this important?

This is part of my mission here on this blog.

  • To open people's eyes to the Deaf community.
  • I want people to know that people who are Deaf are people first and Deaf second.
  • That they are more than capable of many things.
  • That it is possible to work with those that are Deaf and Hard of Hearing and not just around them.

To me the OSF is inspirational.  They not only work with an actor that is Deaf (and provide many interpreters for rehearsals -- 12 hour rehearsals at times) but the way they integrate him into the play.

They integrate deafness into their scripts, into each of the actors that perform with him.  They're all a part of it and it changes the depth of the play, the depth of the characters, and the strength of the message.

Please share this idea with those that you think may need it:

Tweet: The Deaf can do everything except hear.

Your Turn

What do you think of people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing being in the theatre?  What do you think of the saying, "the Deaf can do everything except hear?"

7 Warning Signs You Have Audism

Audism. Blech.  

7 Warning Signs You Have Audism | What is audism, why do you not want it, and how to get rid of it! Learn more about Deaf culture

Do you have audism?  You could have it and not even realize it. You may not be a full-fledged audist, but you may have audist tendencies. Let's take a look at your symptoms. Answer yes or no to each question below.

7 Warning Signs You Have Audism

  1. You think being Deaf is a disability.
  2. You think the only way for a person who is Deaf to survive is with hearing devices.
  3. You hate when Deaf people don't speak or they make "funny noises."
  4. Your hero is Alexander Graham Bell.
  5. You think SEE is the only way to sign.
  6. You think SEE is lame.
  7. You think ASL is crippling.

How did you do?  Let's go on to explore each of these a bit more.

What is audism?

The belief that life without hearing is futile and miserable, that hearing loss is a tragedy and a scourge on mankind, and that deaf people should struggle to be as much like hearing people as possible. -- Tom Humphries

Tweet: Audism is a threat to Deaf Culture.

What does this have to do with you?  You may be hearing and wondering why I'm telling you about audism. It doesn't affect you directly.

But it might affect someone you know. Your opinion one day may influence someone that is then directly affected.  Am I being too ambiguous for you? I'm sorry.  Let me go over each item on the warning signs list so you can better understand.

1. Deaf ≠ disability.

I can point you back to this first post where I went over this. Being unable to hear does not mean you are disabled.  Do not treat them as though they are disabled.  No matter how much you disagree with the statement you do not talk to them (or at them) like they are lower functioning than you.  They are not.  In fact, I'd say if you treat them poorly they are 99.9% higher functioning than you.

2.  Deaf people do not need hearing aids or cochlear implants to get by.

I am not dogging on hearing aids or cochlear implants (CI). It is a hot topic in Deaf Culture.  Some individuals view them as a form of audism.  Some individuals find them oppressive.  I have some opinion on the matter, but I cannot really say 100% because I am hearing.  I can see both sides of the argument. What I think I've seen being the general consensus is that people should wait until the child is old enough to make their own choices about hearing aids and especially CI.

That being said.  They do not need them to have a full life. To have careers.  To contribute to society.  To be abled and not disabled. I say, it's for them to choose what they use and what they don't.

3.  Deaf people are not quiet.

It's a general misconception that they are.  I'm not saying that they're loud and weird.  I'm just saying you're not going to be near them and never hear a sound come from their lips.  In my post on Wednesday, What ASL Can Teach Us About Writing , I talked about the sound effects we use in sign briefly.  Beyond that they do make their own sounds. It's not bad or weird.  If you've ever been to a Deaf person's house you'll see that they're not quiet.  They slam cabinets closed, stomp, bang their stuff, and can even chew loudly and slurp.  It's awesome.  It's actually fun to be there and let loose a bit and not worry about how loud you're being.

You can also talk with your mouth full.  That's pretty awesome.  I don't mean speak and chew. I mean chew your food and sign (mouth closed).

4. Alexander Graham Bell is a hiss and a byword in Deaf culture.

Reader's Digest version:

He almost destroyed ASL and Deaf culture.  He and his father studied speech and spent their lives teaching Deaf students. His mother was Deaf and he didn't like it.  The telephone was supposed to be a hearing aid type device and not a telephone.  He believed in oralism. Oralism is, in a nut shell, forcing them into being a hearing person.  No signing, no gestures, just speaking.

He wanted the deaf to stop marrying each other (fun fact, he married one of his Deaf students). To do this he had the schools across the nation get rid of Deaf teachers, sign language, and the residential schools.  ASL was nearly wiped out.  It was awful.   In 1910 the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) rose to the defense of their culture and their language.  They made 18 films, one of which is entitled "The Preservation of the Sign Language."

August 13, 2013 was the 100th anniversary of this video.



5. SEE is still sign language.

SEE is short for Sign Exact English.

You would sign: I AM GO-ING TO THE STORE. In ASL it's: I STORE GO I

Now you may look at that and say what's wrong with it?  Well, nothing, really.  It is clunky and slow to sign.  It is also harder to follow when you are watching someone sign it. I am not dogging on SEE signers.  There are Deaf individuals that think SEE is the only way to go and if you use ASL then you are in the wrong.  This is a form of audism in the Deaf community.  SEE can help people who are Deaf to have an easier time with their English skills.  Remember, ASL is a foreign language, it is not a form of English. So when they learn to read and write (and they can do both, of course) it is learning a second language.

6. SEE is still sign language (yes, I repeated myself).

This is a form of audism in the Deaf community.  Those that use pure (and I mean pure) ASL and not SEE or Pidgin sign (a looser translation of ASL with a bit of SEE in there) will look down on those that use SEE.  It means you're trying to be a hearing person and that you're better than them. They may think you're a snob.  Pidgin signers can look down on SEE signers as well (Pidgin is what most people wind up using, even if they try to be pure ASL - at least that's true in my experience).

It's like any community and minority.  There is prejudice outside and inside the culture. It's sad and true.


Poem about Deaf that use SEE and ASL to come together, united. 

Some Deaf do not like hearing people trying to get into their culture.  About 9 years ago I was at a Deaf get-together at the mall and a man told me I THINK-HEARING and that he THINK-DEAF.  I said he was right.  I love Deaf Culture and do my best to honor it and to be involved in it.  But guess what?  I'm hearing.  No matter what I do I will always be hearing and since I was raised that way I can't be 100% in the Deaf Culture.  The only way really (for hearing) is if you're a CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult).

Don't go thinking Deaf hate hearing people. They don't. There is just a wary feeling with some of them.  They are wary because of their history.  ASL was almost wiped out in its entirety. They are treated unfairly every day by hearing people. They might have been bullied.  Any number of things can contribute to their dislike of hearing people.

7.  ASL empowers.

ASL is not stifling.  It is not going to cripple that person in their life.

I hope that you take a look at your viewpoints of the Deaf community.  Evaluate how you behave around Deaf and Hard of Hearing. They are people.  They have hearts and feelings.  They are powerful and capable and just as wonderful as you are.  You may not be hitting them, but the way you treat them can be just as hurtful.

Let them decide for themselves which method they want to use.  They may use ASL, SEE, CI, hearing aids, oralism, or some combination. That shouldn't matter.  What should matter is that they are true to themselves.  Then they can be true to the Deaf community.


Such a great video.  It is captioned so you can understand him if you don't know ASL. 

Going back to my earlier statement. Your opinion one day may affect someone.  You may think CI is the only way to go with hours and hours and hours (and I mean hours) of speech therapy for an oralism stance. You could talk to someone about it.  They may talk to someone about it who just found out their child is Deaf or H/H. Now their options have been limited and they may not get the full story. At least let them hear every side before they decide.

There's so much more to Deaf and ASL history.  I will talk about cochlear implants in a future post.  That is something every hearing person should know about.  For reals.

Tweet: I can get rid of audism, starting with me.

I'd love to know your thoughts on audism.  Did you have it an not realize it?