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Becoming part of the Deaf Community

Published: 8/24/2023 2:10:05 AM

If you or a loved one is deaf, there is a whole community of others like you that share a distinct, rich culture. Becoming involved with this community can be hugely beneficial and help you to find support and friendship among others who have shared similar experiences. Here is some information to help you understand the culture and how you can become part of it. 

About the Deaf Community 

The Deaf Community is considered a linguistic and cultural minority group and recognised in Australian government policy. So, just as we capitalise the names of some ethnic communities and cultures (for example: Italian, Jewish), some people in the community prefer deaf to be capitalised. However, not everyone who is deaf or hard of hearing will associate themselves with the Deaf Community. Many deaf or hard of hearing people prefer to avoid terminology like ”hearing impaired” or “hearing loss” as they can have negative connotations such as that they are “less than” hearing people. When writing about the Deaf Community, Hearing Australia follows the inclusive terms used by Deaf Australia, a Deaf-led peak body representing Deaf people in Australia.   


The Deaf Community has a unique shared language and culture. There are recognised ‘sign language families’ in many countries across the world. In Australia, Auslan (Australian Sign Language) is officially accepted as a community language. Sign language has an inventive tradition of storytelling, humour and drama. Our understanding of sign language is now being enhanced with linguistic research. If you or your friends and family want to learn Auslan, it’s taught at TAFE, universities, and adult education centres. While there is no universal sign language, there is an ‘International Sign’ system that allows deaf people from different countries to communicate. 

How sign language users communicate  

For deaf people, perceptions of the world are primarily visual, so they use complex and effective ways to gain each other’s attention, take turns in conversations, ‘interrupt’ appropriately, introduce strangers, and arrange living environments comfortably to enhance visual access to communication. These may be quite different from comparable behaviours among hearing people. In addition, years of experience trying to communicate with those who don’t understand them makes most deaf people very flexible and imaginative communicators, both with other Deaf signers and with hearing people. 

Community events 

There are various special events and get-togethers for people in the Deaf Community. For example, the Australian Deaf Games and the Deaflympics are held every four years. There are also a range of local and national gatherings of deaf social, political, and cultural organisations. You can find out more about these through your local or state Deaf societies.  

Cultural values 

While attitudes have changed considerably in recent times, there’s still a tendency for society to view deafness or disability as something to hide or be ashamed of. Many deaf adults disagree with that assessment and are proud of their Deaf identity and view themselves and their children as being part of a rich culture with its own history, humour and language passed on by relatives, peers and friends.  

Meeting deaf adults 

If you, your child, or loved one has recently been diagnosed as deaf, it can be very valuable to meet with others from the community and learn about their language and culture. For parents in particular, the Deaf Community will be a vital resource to help with maximising your child’s experiences through different stages of growing up. For deaf and hard of hearing children, meeting other deaf or hard of hearing people will enable them to engage with others who share similar experiences to them and highlight their capacity to have a rich, fulfilling life. 

The flags of the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples

Hearing Australia acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land that we live and work on, and we pay our respects to Elders past, present and future.