With a "D"

I'm taking 0504-545 Deaf Literature this quarter, the last course in my American Sign Language concentration at RIT. Today's article was titled, "Is There Really Such a Thing as Deaf American Literature?" Deaf literature is more than English works written by Deaf authors. (That's "Deaf" as in "culturally Deaf," as opposed to deaf as in "hearing impaired.") To use a word from the article, this literature is unique, kinetic, from a whole other language.

I watched a few Deaf students during lunch today, and got to thinking about something that was brought to my attention in ASL class last year. Before college, I didn't realize that "Deaf" was even a concept beyond hearing loss, that there was a close-knit culture behind what most people think of only as a disability. These people have their own language, their own values, their own stories and art. They are a true American subculture. But there's something else that makes them unique, something unlike most other subcultures you'll come across: the Deaf community faces an extinction.

Advances in medical science can no doubt eradicate hearing loss. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are already bringing deaf people into the hearing world. In the future, doctors will identify and have the power to alter genes that cause hearing loss. Many Deaf people feel threatened by this, and understandably so: their "deafness" and "Deafness" are intertwined, and every child that loses their deafness is a child that loses their chance to be part of the Deaf community.

This is a sticky subject, and not one I have any answers for. Just something that's been on my mind today.