Deaf Community


About the Word

When using the word in writing, "deaf" and "Deaf" may carry different meanings. Generally, "little d deaf" refers to the physical state of being deaf, having lost all or most of one's hearing. "Big D Deaf" typically refers to a more broad community of deaf, hard of hearing, and even hearing people such as interpreters, CODAs (Children Of Deaf Adults) and other family members, and friends.

The preferred term to describe a deaf person is simply "deaf." The terms "deaf-mute," "deaf and dumb," and "hearing-impaired" are considered to be offensive. Most deaf people are not physically mute - their vocal cords are intact - but speaking clearly is difficult since they can't hear themselves, so most prefer not to use their voice unless necessary. "Deaf and dumb" is especially offensive, because the lack of hearing or inability to speak clearly is not indicative of a person's intelligence. (Is [WWW]Stephen Hawking dumb because he can't use his voice? Nope.) Hearing people often use "hearing-impaired" to describe deaf and hard of hearing people, based on the misconception that it is the politically-correct term. But because the word "impaired" focuses on the negative, many deaf people find it offensive. The words "deafie" and "hearie" (i.e. "Deafies use ASL, hearies use speech.") are not offensive, they're just a "cute" way of describing people.

Sign Language

[WWW]American Sign Language is used by Deaf people in the US and Canada. ASL is also used in other English-speaking countries around the world, although the UK uses British Sign Language (BSL). When interacting with hearing people, deaf people may be more likely to use speech and lipreading, but ASL is the common language of the Deaf community. ASL combines signed words and [WWW]fingerspelling, and has its own grammatical structures that differ from spoken English. For example, the ASL equivalent of the spoken or written sentence, "Do you want chicken?" would be "Chicken - want?" while looking at the person to indicate the "you".


Rochester School for the Deaf was founded in 1876, bringing focus to Rochester as a hub for the Deaf community. The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) was founded in 1965, and brings deaf students from all over the world to Rochester. RIT offers interpreters for deaf students to take classes with hearing students, and many colleges and community education centers offer American Sign Language classes for both deaf and hearing people. At some colleges, students can take ASL as a foreign language credit. At the high school level, ASL classes are rarely available, and when they are, they do not qualify as a foreign language credit under the NYS curriculum.


According to the [WWW]New York Times there are about 90,000 people who are deaf or hard of hearing living among the Rochester area's 700,000 residents. According to the [WWW]Democrat and Chronicle the numbers are considerably lower. No accurate study has been done, and the numbers could be skewed depending on how "deaf or hard of hearing" is defined. But regardless of the numbers, it's clear that Rochester has a very large deaf population. And as the Deaf community grows, so does Rochester's reputation as a deaf-friendly city.

Rochester has an unique role in the Deaf community as being the only city in which many of its hearing citizens know how to communicate with Deaf people. According to RocWiki member [WWW]bammerburn, 1 out of every 3 hearing Rochester residents know at least the fingerspelled alphabet, which is hugely beneficial for getting services and new friends around the city.


In Rochester, there is plenty to do as a Deaf resident/student.