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Book: "Deaf in America" (an excerpt)
Deaf in America by Carol Padden and Tom Humphries. Harvard College,
1995. p. 2
Before beginning our journey through the imagery and patterns of meaning that constitute Deaf people's lives, we must identify the community of "Deaf " people with which we are concerned.
Following a convention proposed by James Woodward ( 1972), we use the lowercase deaf when referring to the audiological condition of not hearing, and the uppercase Deaf when referring to a particular group of deaf people who share a language - American Sign Language (ASL) - and a culture.
The members of this group reside in the United States and Canada, have inherited their sign language, use it as a primary means of communication among themselves, and hold a set of beliefs about themselves and their connection to the larger society. We distinguish them from, for example, those who find themselves losing their hearing because of illness, trauma or age; although these people share the condition of not hearing, they do not have access to the knowledge, beliefs, and practices that make up the culture of Deaf people.
. . . .this knowledge of Deaf people is not simply a camaraderie with others who have a similar physical condition, but is, like many other cultures in the traditional sense of the term, historically created and actively transmitted across generations.