Deafhood perspectives and genetics

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The rewards of belonging to communities with their unique visual languages, cultures and art forms – and the sharing of these with increasing numbers of enthusiastic hearing people - are often seen as outweighing negative treatment by societies. One example of those rewards is the opportunity, through the development of the unique language of International Sign, to participate in a worldwide community, one which some say offers a positive model of global unity and citizenship. 

The new concept of Deafhood represents a positive and empowering sense of self that stands in contrast to ‘deafness’ discourses. It encompasses the positive benefits of sign languages to wider society and human knowledge - for example, the growing movement to teach hearing parents to sign with their hearing children has been shown to enhance hearing children’s cognitive development and the ability to use their own spoken language. 

However, Deafhood experiences and beliefs are not yet recognised by most academic, social policy and political bodies, and thus the results of this research project will be of importance for them. Similarly they will be important for disabled peoples’ movements, for other groups threatened by genetics, and also for groups who are active in monitoring any state movement towards eugenics.

One Deafhood approach to genetics suggests that SLPs serve as a ‘touchstone’ for the wider social debate, since (to give one example) the removal of 250 of the world’s languages can be said to be in breach of United Nations charters of human rights.(Click here to read further information) This project thus believes that research information, if properly collected and presented, can open up previously hidden discourses around morality, philosophy, the ‘quality of life’, and the place of human diversity in human existence.