Varying perspective can be such an asset to any workplace. It can also be a challenge. I kept this in mind coming into my fellowship at DSC, but I did not realize just how much I would have to consider perspective. Cultural variance between the hearing community and the Deaf community is a real thing. Not only do individuals in these communities experience life differently, but there can also be misconceptions between the two.
DSC’s employees range from D/deaf, H/hard of hearing, D/deaf-blind, and hearing individuals. You may notice the slash separating some capital letters in my descriptions. That is because there is a difference between cultural and medical terminology. A word is always capitalized when referring to a language, nationality or culture. This is the same for Deaf culture. There are some individuals who are born medically diagnosed deaf or hard of hearing who do not identify with the culture. When referring to these individuals, the words are not capitalized. Those who do identify with the culture go by capital letters. The community takes this on as a proud identity. They call themselves “Big D” Deaf. There are also some individuals who are born medically diagnosed hard of hearing, who grow up in the deaf community and identify “Big D” Deaf. Similar to pronoun preference, this is an identity only to be determined by that individual.
This week I was copy-editing our Case for Support document. This is a document our Development Director uses when meeting with potential donors. While editing the document, varying perspective became undeniably clear. DSC had hired a contractor who drafted the document, and it was interesting to note her perspective as a hearing person outside of the organization. Her work was a really good start for the document, but it led to lots of discussion on verbiage. We began discussing what the proper terminology is and how to structure an argument that is compelling while not making D/deaf and H/hard of hearing appear to always be a negative experience. We identified that there is a need to address cultural competency in the document so that all those who read it can understand.
By working with such a diverse group of individuals, I am able to gain insight beyond what I could gain elsewhere. Learning about cultural perspective has helped me to understand the importance of this organization. DSC not only provides tangible services, but acts as a cultural competency advocate.
– Karlee H.