When thinking about Deaf culture, realize there is a barrier dividing people who are Deaf from hearing people, and it is communication. A large portion of Deaf culture revolves around this fact of life. Lack of communication inhibits the interaction between people. So, to overcome this, many people who are Deaf key in on socialization.
Deaf people are famous for "DST," Deaf Standard Time. That is, the Deaf have a tendency to be late because they like to chat for long periods of time.
However, not Deaf are involved with the Deaf Community. Not all people who are Deaf, especially young Deaf children of hearing parents, have access to -- or even know -- other people who are Deaf. Nine out of every ten Deaf children are born from hearing parents who have no experience or knowledge of the Deaf community. There are Deaf children whose parents do not know Sign Language. And, there are Deaf children who do not know other Deaf children. Many have a hard time making good friends because they either don't have the opportunity or they don't share the same language with other children. We feel it is important, like many other Deaf sites on the Internet, to raise awareness about these issues.
Deaf Communities are extremely tight knit worlds that exist to preserve friendships and interaction. Deaf Communities also serve as a rallying point to create the political strength the Deaf need to lobby for the support they need from the larger community. Schools for the Deaf provide a center for the community, an emotional core, if you will. These schools are considered extremely important and essential to the well being of individuals as well as the group. Deaf Communities are quick to act if anything threatens their school funding. Also, religion often plays a large role in the lives of the Deaf, because they provide opportunities for interaction. An announced sporting event for the Deaf can draw thousands from all over, not so much for the sport but for the socialization. Deaf people like to hang around a lot of the same places where they know that they would find other Deaf people, such as coffeehouses and movie houses that play open-captioned movies.
Identity is another important issue with the Deaf Community and individuals who are Deaf. They question the common notion: "Are Deaf really handicapped?" They say "No!" It is important to all Deaf that to remain strong and independent. They want to prove Deafs can make it in the world, and they often give themselves and each other encouragement to develop the confidence to make it as whole and independent people in the world. The only thing they can't do is hear. If they have the benefit of a good education and develop their skills, the Deaf can function as well as anyone else. The Deaf are very straightforward and uninhibited in the way they communicate with each other, and with all other people as well. They don't "pussy-foot" around. Sometimes this directness comes off as seeming rude. Hearing people tend to cover up their true meaning more than the Deaf do. This confuses communication. The Deaf read the body language before the words, so most of the time they know the real meaning even when the words don't match up. The words confuse the meaning, and makes it difficult to communicate.
Historically the Deaf have been one of the world's repressed minorities. In times past, the Deaf were often referred to in negative ways. Today sensitive and informed people use positive language that recognizes, and values, the differences. Deaf people are "people" first and "Deaf" second. Being "Deaf" does NOT make one "dumb". People who are Deaf are very sensitive to any put down, and rightfully so.
Even though the Deaf in America all have regional, even school, differences or they were taught a variety of different language systems growing up, once people who are Deaf get together they quickly find a common ground in language so they can communicate with each other. This is usually ASL. The Deaf all over the world are very flexible with each other because they value so much the chance to form real, meaningful relationships. The Deaf pick up what others are saying by starting with very gestural signs that look much like what they mean. Sometimes these signs are called "iconic" (like "icon" pictures used to represent actions on the computer). Sign language can be very efficient and the Deaf are able to learn variations in each other's systems quickly. Deafs tend to joke that it would be better for the world's sake if each country's diplomats were Deaf, because they can find ways to resolve their differences, come together, and be strong. The Deaf could do the world good!