How to Support the Deaf Community

Today is the International Volunteer Day! We thank every volunteer for their valuable and great effort put in towards helping D/deaf and Hard of hearing.

However, we would like to share our advice to those hearing people who wish to volunteer for and/or with Deaf for the first time. Also, those who wish to form an interest group as a means to help D/deaf. This could be possibly challenging for them. Sometimes, they might not grasp the implications (such as cultural appropriation, disrespect) of their choices when they start volunteering.

What is volunteerism to you? Volunteerism is defined as providing time and skills for the benefit of other people and causes, rather than for financial benefit. However, this is more than just volunteering as deafness does not mean a hearing disability alone. Unfortunately, many of you think that it needs to be fixed or compensated, as in accordance to the medical model of disability.

You have to be an ALLY with Deaf; there is a way of supporting the Deaf Community. You need to be aware of Singapore Sign Language by listening and learning about Deaf culture and their histories, as well as sign languages.

+ Empower Deaf people by giving them opportunities
+ Recommend Deaf artists, content creators, entrepreneurs, media producers, and writers, to your companies
+ Support and/or buy from Deaf artists, business owners and entrepreneurs
+ Getting the Deaf person to be part of your work

Cultural appropriation defines as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand and respect this culture”. Its examples (of Deaf-Culturally appropriating) include:

– Create Sign Language art
– Teach Sign Language (for your own benefit)
– Buy products (such as the “I-LOVE-YOU” sign products or sign language art) from hearing business owners
*Video clips are attached for your better understanding:

Cultural Appropriation of Sign Language for the Game show
Cultural Appropriation of Auslan in Song-Signing for the Voice
Cultural Appropriation of Sign Language Art

Deaf-Cultural appropriation could be avoided:
“Is the business deaf-owned? If not, who created those Deaf culture products?”
“Is the artist deaf or hearing? Did they pay them? Is the hearing artist involved in the deaf community?”
“Will the profits from those products be donated to the Deaf or deaf community? How much?”

With the kind intention of helping deaf people by creating Deaf culture products or other avenues, you inadvertently harm the deaf community. This approach includes making resources without checking to see what kind of resources the deaf community already has. Also, the deaf community’s input on their works is not considered valuable because they feel that they know the best for them. Lastly, spreading information about Deaf culture without knowing, understanding and respecting cultures & languages adds insult to the injury (due to the oppression the D/deaf have experienced for centuries).

We, Deaf, do not need to be saved.
Please support our Deaf ecosystem. Just acknowledge our abilities beyond our deafness.