Deaf, DeafBlind and hard of hearing (D/DB/HOH) survivors of domestic violence often struggle to get the help they need from many service providers. Survivors encounter serious barriers to communication as well as a lack of understanding of Deaf culture from traditional victim service providers. They also experience ineffective intervention for domestic violence issues within organizations dedicated to serving people with disabilities or Deaf people.
BRIDGES connects helping professionals and builds collaboration so that together we can break down barriers and meet the unique needs of D/DB/HOH survivors. Our co-advocacy approach works in tandem with your program and survivors—bridging the gaps and helping your program navigate challenges and barriers to providing effective services. If your program wants to partner with BRIDGES or needs assistance in working with D/DB/HOH survivors of domestic violence, please contact us today.
You can also take simple steps to learn more about what works and get practical resources and tools to strengthen your program’s work with D/DB/HOH survivors of domestic violence. The information below shares some key things to keep in mind about Deaf culture, communication and how to be an effective ally.
Many Deaf and hard of hearing people identify as members of a distinct cultural group in the United States. Like any other culture, Deaf culture has its own values, norms, community institutions and history that are important to understand and incorporate when serving Deaf survivors.
As with any culture, Deaf culture is learned and passed down from generation to generation. Most cultures are passed down within families. However, because 90 percent of Deaf people are born to hearing parents, only a small percentage of Deaf people learn their culture from their family. As a result, most Deaf people learn their culture through interactions with their peers and other Deaf people – often in Deaf schools and other community institutions.
The primary language for Deaf individuals in the U.S. is American Sign Language (ASL).
Community institutions have played a critical role in the formation of the Deaf community and Deaf culture.
While norms may also vary from community to community and person to person, there are some common norms and etiquette that are helpful to know when working with Deaf people.
History is a central part of every culture. Deaf history includes a broad collection of experiences around community, education, language and culture. Because Deaf Americans have long been isolated from the mainstream hearing society, until the mid-1980s information about Deaf community, culture and history came almost exclusively from outside observers: hearing people who worked with Deaf individuals- educators, doctors, and policymakers. Inspired by the social-political trends of the Civil Rights movement, members of the Deaf community began to look at and establish their own history.
The term deaf-blind or DeafBlind refers to a person who has a combined vision and hearing loss. Many people who are deaf-blind identify themselves as being a part of “DeafBlind culture.” However, some do not. Most people who are DeafBlind fall on a spectrum of having some hearing and/or vision that they can use. Most interpreters are familiar with the ideology of viewing deafness from either a medical or cultural perspective. For some DeafBlind individuals, communication involves using tactile methods to access communication and visual information. For others, it involves the use of remaining vision and/or hearing to access communication and information.
In abusive relationships, the perpetrator will often hide, destroy, or remove the batteries from a technological device (e.g., videophone, cell phone) that the victim uses to contact friends, family and/or emergency assistance. FYI, many videophones require a dedicated remote control in order to dial any number, including 911.
Some people may request a different interpreter even when a qualified one has already been assigned. This can be due to: the client knowing the interpreter on a personal basis (conflict of interest), the client’s inability to understand that particular interpreter’s signing style; or the client’s appraisal that the interpreter is not voicing his/her statements accurately.
If you need an interpreter, check Georgia Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf online for a list of ASL interpreting agencies (click on resource and scroll down to page 7). Talk with your agency about budgeting for interpreters annually; if at times there is a financial hardship, contact BRIDGES and we will try our best to support you in your efforts to provide communication access! Note: BRIDGES does not have interpreters on staff.