Sunday, September 25, 2011

DON'T CALL ME THAT! Are Some People Too Sensitive In Regard to Terminology?

People have their opinions. Anyone who reads my (or anyone’s) blog will clearly know that. Opinions exist about everything from the President of the United States to the price of gas to whether Kim Kardashian’s boobs look real. OK. I actually don’t have an opinion on that one.

One thing that’s been discussed in many different ways is what terms are acceptable when referring to minority groups. Political correctness has become the goal for everyone as each person strives to decipher what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s polite, and what’s downright rude.

The Deaf Culture considers itself a minority group of sorts. Not disabled—just a group of people who cohesively use a language other than English to communicate. Where hearing people might consider a Deaf person communicatively handicapped if they walked into a room of hearing people talking; those same hearing people would be equally handicapped if they walked into a room full of Deaf people fluently signing in ASL.

When a hearing person refers to a Deaf individual, there begins a debate of which terms can safely be used and which terms should be laid to rest. Terms such as “deaf and dumb” or “deaf mute” are obviously no longer considered couth. I know many Deaf people who are oodles smarter than any hearing person I’ve ever known. And I’ve yet to meet a Deaf person who does not have fully functioning vocal cords—thus they are not definably “mute.”

Even the term “hearing impaired” is frowned upon by the Deaf Community. I mean, who wants to be labeled “impaired” about anything? I certainly don’t. Nope. The terms of choice are simple: “Deaf” or “Hard of Hearing.” No, “Deaf” is not derogatory. It’s a statement of fact. I’m proud to be called that and personally have never had an occasion when it didn’t sit right with me. I’m Deaf and proud to carry that label.

For those who are unable to understand the spoken work without aid but are not comfortable with “deaf,” “hard of hearing” is a pretty generalized phrase that should sit OK with most.  Of course, as I said before, everyone has their own feelings and sometimes it’s just easier to ask a person what term they prefer. If in doubt, no worries. Why even refer to a person based on their hearing status? Call them by their name. That’s usually safe. Usually.

Then there are people who take things to an extreme (in my opinion). People who say, “Don’t say, ‘can’t hear.’ That’s so negative!” or “Don’t say, ‘has trouble hearing’—you’re just focusing on what’s wrong.” But, dude! Sometimes you have to use words that might point out someone’s inability (“Don’t say, ‘inability!’”) to comprehend certain sounds (“Don’t say, ‘sound’!”). Whatever.

Like Bill Cosby once said—“ “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

Terminology is a personal thing. You gotta go with what feels right. If a certain person requests you use a certain word, then use it. What do you like to be called? Me? I prefer “Michele.”


  1. I love this!!! I am in ASL and our teacher posted this online for us to read!! It was educational to see, and is very true in all cultures, somethings are accepted by some, and still offend others! I think sticking with one's name is a plus!! :) Thank you for the informative blog!