This week ends Deaf Awareness Week also known as International Week of the Deaf.  The purpose of this week is to increase public awareness of hearing loss, deaf issues, its people and its culture.  Each year the World Federation of the Deaf identifies a theme for the week, and this year the theme is Equality for Deaf People.

Unfortunately, deaf or hearing impaired people are often viewed as being handicapped, and that isn’t really the case.  They have a distinctive culture and a truly unique way of communicating, however they are just as knowledgeable, intelligent and competent as any individual with full hearing capabilities.

There are several famous and high achieving deaf people around the world.  Start ASL has a huge list of deaf people who have been in the public spotlight.  Some of the most surprising ones are:

  •  Paul Stanley – Singer in the rock band KISS was born deaf in one ear.
  • Rush Limbaugh – A talk show host who experienced sudden deafness.
  • Lou Ferrigno – Played the “Hulk” in the original series.
  • Halle Berry – 2001 Best Actress Academy Award winner claims that she has 80% hearing loss in one ear due to domestic abuse.
  • Leslie Nielsen – Starred in many classics… most notably Airplane.
  • Jane Lynch – Famous actress known for her starring role on the hit TV series “Glee”. She is deaf in one ear.
  • Rob Lowe – American actor, completely deaf in right ear.
  • Jeffrey “Jeff” Float – A former American swimmer who became the only legally deaf athlete from the USA to win an Olympic gold medal.
  • Lance Allred – American basketball player, first deaf person to play in the NBA.
  • Jim Kyte – The first (and to date, the only) deaf National Hockey League (NHL) player.
  • Howard Hughes – An aviator, film producer, engineer, film director, industrialist, and philanthropist.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven – Was completely deaf for the last part of his life and yet managed to produce some of the greatest music of all time.

Deaf people face certain challenges that those with hearing rarely think about.  Driving a car for instance is something that deaf people do all the time but they must be extra vigilant about watching everything around them because they are unable to hear sirens or horns.  Another problem with driving is most of us rely on our ears to tell us when something doesn’t “sound right” with our vehicles, but a deaf person doesn’t have that option.  Think about your alarm clock, your telephone, or the door bell; these are all obstacles that a deaf person must work around.  There are solutions though and you will find that deaf people are pretty ingenious when it comes to finding out what works for them.

So during this week, let’s all be mindful of the deaf community, its culture, its struggles and yes, even its triumphs.  We want to be thankful for the hearing we have and realize what a privilege it is to live in a world where we can celebrate the diversity of its people and appreciate one another with all our struggles and our triumphs.

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