Our guests graciously shared their informative presentation, "Deaf Community Cultural Wealth," highlighting the Six Capitals of Deaf Community Cultural Wealth and how they help empower people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
Flavia and Will opened the presentation by helping the audience, comprised mostly of hearing parents and family members of children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, understand the idea that "deaf" does not equal "deficient." The idea that to be Deaf is to have a deficit has been constructed by the hearing majority - it's not a belief held by the Deaf community. This is a very important distinction, as it can serve to help reframe a parent's perspective when raising a child who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
Flavia acknowledged the reality of barriers, noting some are real - such as language accessibility challenges, and some are merely perceived -- for example, a student's self-limiting belief that s/he can't pursue a certain career path because s/he is Deaf. Not true! Flavia and Will explained that, while it can be tiring to routinely work to overcome socially imposed barriers, Deaf Community Cultural Wealth plays an important role in a Deaf person's ability to resist negative social messaging, develop resistance, reject society's idea that "Deaf" equals "deficit," (or recover faster from negative messaging), and ultimately, to develop the ability to thrive!
So, what are the Six Capitals of Deaf Community Cultural Wealth? They are:
Linguistic - Intellectual and social skills attained through communication experience in more than one language/style. (Yet another reason to support multilingualism! It was especially interesting to hear Will talk about one of his research findings, stemming from more than 100 hours of interviews -- that young adults who had access to American Sign Language found it easier to create authentic connections with hearing people who don't sign. Wait - what?!!? YES! The language skills acquired through ASL made it easier for Deaf students to communicate with non-signers while navigating their way through the hearing world. Access to natural language is a powerful thing!)
Social - Networks of people and community resources that provide instrumental emotional support to navigate one's way through society. (Access to Deaf role models, opportunities to engage with a peer group using natural language, etc. At this point in the presentation, an audience member, Matt Reinig, who is the Student Development Specialist at CSUN, came forward to share how access to Deaf summer camp was so important when he was growing up.)
Familial - The cultural knowledge nurtured among familia (kin) that carry a sense of community, history, memory and cultural intuition that engages a commitment to community well-being. (Teach your children about your culture!)
Aspirational - The ability to maintain dreams for the future, even in the face of perceived barriers. (No limits!)
Navigational - The ability to maneuver through spaces not designed for Deaf people. (Will stressed the need for hearing parents to let their Deaf children gain experience navigating the hearing world -- try not to be too over-protective; let them learn to order their own food, etc.)
Resistant - The knowledge and skills fostered through oppositional behavior that challenges inequality. (Teach your children to self-advocate!)
In ending the presentation, Flavia reminded parents to hold high expectations for ALL of their children, and to become and remain well-informed. She also cautioned parents to be careful of believing in the idea of a "Deaf World" and a "Hearing World." In reality, it's all One World - we're all human. BEAUTIFUL!
Finally, Flavia and Will encouraged parents to be brave and venture out in an effort to get to know the the local Deaf community. Don't worry if you only sign "a little," or even not at all ... use gestures! Remember that the Deaf community is used to interacting with hearing people who don't sign - they're good at it. "It will all work out .... it will be OK," she said.
Deaf Education And Families Project
Thanks to all who came out to enjoy this special presentation.