Deaf with a Capital D vs deaf with a Lowercase d: What’s the Difference?

You may or may not have noticed that sometimes Deaf is spelled with a capital D, as it is here, and sometimes with a lowercase d. What’s the difference and what is the importance of this difference? Let’s find out. 

deaf with a Lowercase d 

People who are “deaf” with lowercase or small ‘d’ may have gradually lost their hearing and have not yet integrated into the Deaf community. They may also refer to deaf as a disability or medical condition. 

Their first or primary choices of communication is not a sign language. They are also more connected with the hearing world and potentially feel more comfortable there. As a result deaf people are usually skilled lip readers and are able to communicate orally. Also, deaf people may or may not choose to immerse themselves in the Deaf community

Deaf with an Uppercase D

People who are “Deaf” with capital or uppercase ‘D’ are culturally Deaf. Deafness is not a disability and they do not like to be labeled as hard of hearing or hearing impaired. Instead, they see Deaf as an integral part of who they are, their community, and their identity.

People who label themselves as Deaf are usually heavily integrated and involved in the Deaf community. They come frequently from generationally Deaf families and attended deaf schools. Often, their first language and primary source of communication is Sign Language.

The Difference Between Deaf and deaf

To sum it up, lowercase deaf is used to refer to the audiological condition of not hearing. Whereas, uppercase Deaf refers to a particular group of deaf people who share a language, such as American Sign Language (ASL), and a culture.

Using d/Deaf or D/deaf

When referring to both sides deaf and Deaf or when you’re unsure, you can use “d/Deaf” or “D/deaf”. This is particularly useful if you don’t know how a particular person prefers to identify themselves as, so it’s seen as a more inclusive option.

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