Deaf people form a distinct community with its own culture. Sign language is the glue that binds that culture together.


Deaf culture §

Deaf culture has its own language, values, rules for behaviour and traditions. Some of these cultural aspects are a function of using a visual language rather than an oral one, including:

  • Deaf people ask for attention by waving, stamping, touching or tapping one another, or switching lights on and off.
  • In conversation, eye contact is very important and people need sufficient personal space for arm movements.
  • Deaf people can’t interrupt conversations the way hearing people can. They need to see what is being said, so they can only pay attention to one person at a time. Deaf people wait for the person who is signing to stop before the next person signs.
  • At meetings, Deaf people will sit so that people can see each other — often in a semi-circle or a circle.
  • Deaf culture includes various forms of artistic expression such as signed poetry, story telling and visual arts.

A central part of the culture are Deaf clubs, where Deaf get together to pursue common interests. Here friendships are made and renewed and even romance blossoms. Deaf clubs exist all over New Zealand and provide a space in which Deaf culture thrives.


Deaf people §

Deaf people are positive about being Deaf. It's a way of life for them, not a disability.

Deaf people see themselves as a distinct group within a country and their first language is sign language. In New Zealand their first language is usually New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL).

Deaf people identify with other Deaf people because of shared experiences — such as communication barriers, issues, their needs and goals.

There are about 9,000 culturally Deaf people in New Zealand.

People who are Deaf:

  • See being Deaf as a difference not a disability
  • Are proud to be Deaf
  • Use New Zealand Sign Language
  • Associate with other Deaf people
  • Are involved in the Deaf community

Further reading

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