Definitions/Acronyms

deaf: The term deaf refers to individuals with severe to profound hearing loss. The use of the lowercase "d" reflects a physical, audiological, or pathological view of a deaf person.

Deaf: As mentioned above, the use of the capital “D” in Deaf denotes a person who identifies as part of a cultural minority group, rather than as a person with a disability. For people who identify as Deaf, people first language does not apply. For example, while people first language applies when referring to a “person with a disability,” the correct reference in Deaf culture would be "Deaf person" (emphasizing the person's cultural identity) rather than "person who is Deaf."

Hard of Hearing (HoH): Hard of hearing refers to individuals who typically experience their hearing loss from a physical or audiological perspective. An individual who is hard of hearing may primarily use spoken language (using their residual hearing and speech) to communicate. Some individuals may self-identify as hard of hearing, regardless of the severity of their hearing loss, because of internalized oppression, seeing the term deaf as stigmatizing. Also note that people in the Deaf community may refer to someone as hard of hearing if they choose to use speechreading to communicate, which disregards the actual level of hearing loss an individual may have or their culturally Deaf identity.

Hearing Impaired (HI): The term hearing impaired, typically used in an official context, is seen as negative and stigmatizing by the Deaf community. This term was created and has been nurtured by medical and audiological professionals, whose perspective on deafness generally falls on the pathological end of the scale. The majority of the Deaf community prefers the terms D/deaf and hard of hearing. Additionally, using the term hearing impaired leads to ambiguity, as it does not at all define the level of hearing loss nor the cultural needs of a person.

It is important to acknowledge that, as with any individual, a deaf or hard of hearing person has the right to self-label. Therefore, some may use the term hearing impaired to refer to themselves. Honor this, while still continuing to use otherwise accepted terminology.

American Sign Language (ASL): ASL is the primary language of culturally Deaf people in America. However, not all Deaf individuals use American Sign Language. Sign Language is not universal, and other countries may use different systems. Even in the United States, some Deaf individuals may use systems other than ASL, such as the Manually Coded English (MCE), which includes Signing Exact English (SEE-II)Signed English (SE) and Linguistics of Visual English (LOVE), among others. Some Deaf individuals may also use contact sign language, or contact sign, which is a variety or style of language that arises from contact between deaf sign language and an oral language (or the written or manually coded form of the oral language).

Interpreter (terp): A deaf interpreter is a trained, usually nationally certified or state verified, professional who facilitates communication between deaf people who use sign language and hearing individuals. Knowledge and fluency in sign language is only one aspect of being an interpreter; thus, do not confuse a signer (someone who knows sign language) for an interpreter.

Cochlear Implant (CI): A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. It is important to note that the Deaf community is sharply divided on the topic of CIs; some see the advent of CI surgery as cultural genocide, others look at it as just another type of hearing aid.