A community is a group of people who share the same language (in this case, Singapore Sign Language) as well as a common culture and sense of bonding. The Deaf community is made up of Deaf people who adopt Deaf culture and sign language as part of their self identity. Hearing persons – who embrace Deaf culture and uses sign language – may also accepted by Deaf people as part of the Deaf community.
Did YOU KNOW? Deaf Culture is recognised under Article 30, paragraph 4, of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities). This convention has been signed and ratified by the Singapore government.
This refers to a way of life and common practices and sense of self-identity that Deaf people share in areas which are linked by their deafness. These include social beliefs, behaviours, values, literary and/or artistic traditions, history and institutions.
For those who identify themselves in this group, they refer to themselves as ‘’Deaf” (with a capital D), and sign language is their main mode of communication.
Other components of Deaf Culture are:
The most important values in Deaf culture are: acknowledging the importance of sign language and self-acceptance of one’s deafness as a personal trait rather than a disability or deficiency.
Sign language is the common language of Deaf people, one which gives them a sense of belonging and community binds them as a cohesive whole.
Deaf people, as a group of like-minded individuals, deaf people have certain learnt or adopted behaviours that are distinct from the other communities. For example, Deaf people will often stand to speak in a large group so that their signs can be clearly seen by all present.
Like all other cultural communities, the Deaf communities have their own traditions. The annual celebration of the International Week and Day of the Deaf is one example – these events bring all Deaf persons in the community for a time of community bonding and acknowledging achievements.
Name signs, common life experiences, and a shared heritage make up the traditions of the community and, in turn, reflect its cultural values.
For Deaf people, barriers to access are rarely about physical obstacles. The most common challenge faced by the Deaf is the lack of access to information. This is because such information is conveyed through verbal or auditory methods, or via direct interaction with people who do not use sign language.
People who are Deaf or hard of hearing should have the right to information in accessible formats – such as through sign language interpreters, subtitles and captions – across all forms of media. With full and equal access to information, they will then be able to make informed decisions.