Find out how to navigate in a world without sounds
do deaf people answer a doorbell? Hear a smoke alarm?
Deaf people don't worry about missing the doorbell: flashing
lights, rather than chimes, alert them to visitors. Similarly,
smoke detectors, phones and alarm clocks can all be converted
to feature deaf-friendly flashing lights or very loud
alarms, and even vibrating mechanisms that shake the bed
or buzz in the occupant's pocket. Entire systems can be
designed that combine all these alerts into a small, portable
do deaf people use the phone?
Deaf or hearing-impaired people can use a TTY or TTD (telephone
typewriter or telecommunications device for the deaf both
can be used to describe the same devices) at home or on
the road. The traditional TTY or TTD looks a bit like
an electric typewriter or word processor with a small
text display screen. Some have printer functions and answering
machines. The TTY can only receive information from another
TTY, since each part of the call is converted to beeps
and relayed over phone lines like a fax. To facilitate
communications between deaf and hearing people, phone
companies provide free relay services in which hearing
people are assisted by TTY operators to call deaf TTY
users. There are also portable TTYs, TTDs and special
aids that convert regular phones. Some places, such as
interstate rest stops, even have pay TTYs available.
Most portable TTYs look like sub-notebook computers, and
some can be attached to a cell phone. A Voice Carry Over
(VCO) device can be used by someone who can speak, but
has trouble hearing. The portable VCO attaches to the
earpiece of the phone, and converts incoming TTY transmissions
into displayed text.
do dogs help the deaf?
While there are a variety of technologies available to
assist with alerts and alarms, deaf people can also employ
the services of a hearing dog. Any breed of dog can become
a hearing dog; training is similar to that for Seeing
Eye dogs. The dogs alert their masters with a nudge when phones ring or smoke detectors sound, or by nudge and
lead them to the source of the sound. Since the dog,
unlike a machine, can distinguish threatening sounds,
the hearing dog is a good all-purpose alert.
the deaf drive cars?
Many deaf drivers use special devices that let them know
when fire or ambulance sirens are wailing or car horns
are blaring. To enable drivers to distinguish between
sounds, many of these devices can rate the type of sound
and alert users on a multi-light panel. Some deaf drivers
also use special panoramic mirrors so they can see more
of what is around and behind their car. In the U.S., there
are few restrictions on the deaf obtaining a license to drive.
In certain states, deaf drivers may be required to have
special licenses to indicate that the driver is deaf.
Not all countries permit deaf people to drive, however;
according to statistics from the World Federation of the
Deaf (WFD), at least 26 countries do not allow deaf citizens
to hold a driver's license.
do the deaf watch TV and movies?
Since 1972, television programs have been available with
text for the deaf. While not widely used until the Americans
with Disabilities Act required all televisions over 13"
to contain converting devices, closed captioning lets
deaf television users decode a special signal in program
broadcasts that displays dialogue text across the bottom
of the screen. Although not all programs are closed-captioned,
most network prime-time shows are. Television listings
carry a small CC symbol for closed-captioned programs.
During special showings, movies feature open captioning,
similar to subtitles, for deaf audiences. New technologies
such as WGBH's "Rear-Window Captioning System" are being
developed that allow deaf patrons to use special viewing
panels to read captions during regular movie showings.
Most recent movies released on videotape include closed
captioning for the deaf. Educational and self-help titles
are available to borrow free from certain programs like
the Captioned Media Program.
many deaf Americans are there?
Determining the number of deaf people in the U.S. depends
upon your definition of "deaf." In 1991, The National
Center for Health Statistics reported that there were
between 421,000 and 4.81 million deaf and hard-of-hearing
people in the United States. Responding in anecdotal interviews
and questionnaires, those surveyed were asked to classify
themselves in categories ranging from "deaf in both ears"
to "at best, can hear words shouted across a quiet room."
Approximately 421,000 respondents claimed to be deaf in
both ears, while 1,152,000 could hear speech only if it
was shouted in their better ear. According the National
Center for Health Statistics, the number of deaf people
balloons to almost 20 million when referring to people
who classify themselves as simply "hard of hearing."
do people become deaf?
According to The National Center for Health Statistics,
approximately eight percent of the U.S. population could
be considered "hard of hearing" in 1991. There are many
causes for deafness and loss of hearing. Approximately
90 percent of people who claim to be deaf or hard-of-hearing
were not born that way. People born deaf can either attribute
the loss to hereditary traits or in utero complications such as a rh incompatibility.
In the 1960s, a rubella epidemic caused a large number
of people to be born with hearing problems. Illness or
long-term abuse to the ears (e.g., exposure to loud sounds)
can cause a loss of hearing later in life. The number
of people who are considered "hard-of-hearing" increases
with age. Nearly 30 percent of the population 65 and older
have hearing difficulties. The aging process and the effects
of long-term noise on the ears cause more than half of
the cases of adult hearing loss. Most children with hearing
loss inherit their deafness; rubella, meningitis and prolonged
bouts of high fever are the second most frequent causes.
deaf people have to go to special schools?
In the past most deaf people attended special private
schools for the deaf; the first in the U.S. opened in
1817. Over the years there have been heated battles over
the best methods of instruction for the deaf, most of
them centering on the question of sign language vs. oral-based education. Despite these ongoing controversies,
laws passed in the mid 1970s gave children with special
needs "equal and appropriate" education within the public
school system. Today, many deaf children attend public
schools where they are offered a combination of special instruction
and general studies with their hearing peers.
One of the greatest challenges faced by deaf people is
the acquisition of language skills. People who are born
with hearing problems or develop them very early do not
learn spoken language the way hearing people do. Since
written English is based on spoken language, deaf children
have difficulty learning English and expanding their vocabularies
over time. Children who first learn to communicate using
sign language will have a harder time learning English,
since American Sign Language is not based on spoken or
written English. Deaf children who start with sign language
must learn English as a second language. For these reasons,
many deaf children are taught using oral education methods
that concentrate on English. Nonetheless, not being able
to hear language makes it harder to improve language skills.
For all these reasons, deaf and hard of hearing people
often have lower literacy levels than their hearing peers.
Using a 1996 standardized testing assessment, the Gallaudet
Research Institute analyzed a sample group of 926 deaf
students between the ages of 17 and 18. The results were approximately equivalent to those of an equal survey
of fourth graders taking the same test, meaning that the
median literacy level for 17 - 18 year olds who are deaf
is the same as that of fourth grade hearing students. This figure,
however, reflects English reading comprehension skills
only, not intelligence levels.