Deaf Culture: Exploring Deaf Communities in the United States

Second Edition

Irene W. Leigh, Jean F. Andrews, Raychelle L. Harris, Topher González Ávila

Details: 384 pages, B&W, Softcover, 7" x 10"

ISBN13: 978-1-63550-173-5

© 2022 | Available

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A contemporary and vibrant Deaf culture is found within Deaf communities, including Deaf Persons of Color and those who are DeafDisabled and DeafBlind. Taking a more people-centered view, the second edition of Deaf Culture: Exploring Deaf Communities in the United States critically examines how Deaf culture fits into education, psychology, cultural studies, technology, and the arts. With the acknowledgment of signed languages all over the world as bonafide languages, the perception of Deaf people has evolved into the recognition and acceptance of a vibrant Deaf culture centered around the use of signed languages and the communities of Deaf peoples. Written by Deaf and hearing authors with extensive teaching experience and immersion in Deaf cultures and signed languages, Deaf Culture fills a niche as an introductory textbook that is more inclusive, accessible, and straightforward for those beginning their studies of the Deaf-World.

New to the Second Edition

  • A new co-author, Topher González Ávila, MA 
  • Two new chapters! 
    • Chapter 7 “Deaf Communities Within the Deaf Community” highlights the complex variations within this community
    • Chapter 10 “Deaf People and the Legal System: Education, Employment, and Criminal Justice” underscores linguistic and access rights
  • The remaining chapters have been significantly updated to reflect current trends and new information, such as:
    • Advances in technology created by Deaf people that influence and enhance their lives within various national and international societies
    • Greater emphasis on different perspectives within Deaf culture
    • Information about legal issues and recent political action by Deaf people
    • New information on how Deaf people are making breakthroughs in the entertainment industry
    • Addition of new vignettes, examples, pictures, and perspectives to enhance content interest for readers and facilitate instructor teaching
    • Introduction of theories explained in a practical and reader-friendly manner to ensure understanding
    • An updated introduction to potential opportunities for professional and informal involvement in ASL/Deaf culture with children, youth, and adults 

Key Features

  • Strong focus on including different communities within Deaf cultures
  • Thought-provoking questions, illustrative vignettes, and examples
  • Theories introduced and explained in a practical and reader-friendly manner
  • PluralPlus companion website with a test bank and lecture slides for instructors

Instructor test bank available on the Respondus Test Bank Network

Reviews of the First Edition

"This book provides up-to-date information about the Deaf Community in a "reader-friendly" fashion. It covers many topics that are important to know about when trying to gain an understanding of Deaf Culture."
—Rebecca Swenson, MA, Lecturer and Coordinator of Deaf Studies Minor, State University of New York at New Paltz

"I believe that the authors have excelled at making this text an accessible reference for individuals, such as myself, who are beginning their studies about Deaf culture. The information is presented in an objective way, and effortlessly combines research and theory with real-world stories, photographs, and reflective questions. This combination helped me internalize the concepts the authors discuss. The text also effectively highlights Deaf culture in many contexts, such as fine arts, education, technology, the workplace, and psychology. As a school psychology student, I appreciated the depth in which the authors discuss Deaf education and learning. They provide strategies for increasing learning in a classroom for Deaf students, such as good lighting or arranging desks in a semicircle, and I was also inspired to think about my own educational experiences. As an aspiring clinician, I can use this information to educate my clients about the importance of equal access in the classroom and how to use different learning and teaching strategies to achieve it."
Yasmine R. Jassal, in American Annals of the Deaf (January 2017)

"Deaf Culture: Exploring Deaf Communities in the United States is a comprehensive book that discusses the challenges and successes of persons who are Deaf in the United States. This review of the history of the language and culture of Deaf persons as well as contemporary use of technology that benefits both persons who are Deaf and others in society focuses on individuals and innovations that have supported the success of individuals within Deaf culture."
—Martha J. Cook, PhD, CCC-SLP, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Disorders, Southeast Missouri State University

"This text provides a comprehensive view of the Deaf culture and community. The authors take readers on a journey through the lives of Deaf individuals from every perspective. They leave no topic out. It's refreshing to have a current reference on the topic that encompasses so much material and presents it in an educated, unbiased manner."
—Megan Gross, MSEd, NIC, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Miami University

"This book offers a unique and fresh perspective on the exploration of Deaf culture and the development of one's Deaf identity. I feel that the perspective offered regarding the psychological aspects of Deaf identity, particularly when compared to other cultural minorities, is very beneficial to understanding Deaf culture."
—Dana L. Ulmer, AuD, CCC-A, Clinical Assistant Professor of Audiology, University of Florida

"This manuscript presents a thorough, careful consideration of issues surrounding the Deaf world. It will serve as an excellent text for students with no background in Deaf history, language, and culture."
—Steven Surrency, PhD, Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of South Florida

"The text is well-designed and easy-to-read. There are good illustrations, images, tables, thought-provoking questions, and personal stories. . . . And although multiple authors contributed to the writing, it reads as if from one voice, which makes it flow very nicely. The language is neither lofty or condescending, making it a good read for readers of all levels of education. The authors have done a nice job of demystifying the Deaf culture throughout the text. The selection of online additional resources makes it a good choice for instructors in Deaf Studies, Deaf Education, Interpretation, American Sign Language, Psychology, Audiology, and other related fields. The extra student resources provided would be an excellent guide for students throughout their courses, either as required or recommended reading and activities. The authors outstandingly directed the text toward their intended audience of Deaf Studies/Education and American Sign Language students. However, to gain a new perspective, it would be a good read for audiologists and other professionals who may automatically consider having hearing loss as a disabling condition. In this manner, they may gain new information to improve communication and counseling during professional interactions with Deaf persons."
—Ashley Dockens, Aud, PhD, in Ear & Hearing (2017)

“The authors have made significant improvements in the second version by expanding on the perspectives and experiences within Deaf communities. Readers will learn that Deaf culture is not monolithic… By collaborating with the fourth author, González Ávila, who is a Latinx Queer Deaf man, the original authors shifted from a dominant perspective, which is white, sighted, ablebodied, and cisgender, to views that are more reflective of diverse communities including BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Asexual), DeafBlind, and Deaf Disabled individuals. Several of the original terminologies were revised or added to be respectful and inclusive of diverse communities. For example, the authors replaced the term Latino with Latinx to represent all ranges of gender identities within the Latinx community. The authors also expanded from Native Americans to Indigenous and Native communities, which are the preferred terminology for these communities.
…This second edition of
Deaf Culture: Exploring Deaf Communities in the United States is full of resources for individuals interested to learn about the historical and contemporary issues and trends on Deaf culture and Deaf communities. The textbook uses an engaging and conversational style throughout. It includes text boxes with questions and activities for the readers to pause and reflect upon topics discussed in the chapters. The book is visually interesting, as it incorporates images of diverse Deaf individuals and cultural artifacts. Text boxes with real-life vignettes appear throughout the book to provide glimpses of the vibrant Deaf community. Specific concepts and theories related to the Deaf culture are displayed through diagrams and illustrations. Secondary and postsecondary students studying Deaf education, Deaf studies, sign language, linguistics, audiology, speech-language pathology, counseling, psychology, or social work will find this book practical. Hearing families with deaf children will greatly benefit from reading this book to learn about their Deaf child’s culture and what the Deaf community has to offer.
I appreciate the authors’ considerations and efforts to expand the inclusion of diverse perspectives within the Deaf community in the second version. It is timely, as it reflects the current conversations on the value of equity, diversity, and inclusion on all levels. The authors did a tremendous job in portraying the ever-evolving Deaf culture and Deaf community and its unique contribution to the larger society as a vibrant, interesting, and complex community from authentic perspectives.”

–Julie Mitchiner, PhD, from Sign Language Studies (Spring 2022)

About the Authors

Part I. Deaf Culture: Yesterday and Today

Chapter 1. Deaf Community: Past and Present
The Deaf Community and Its Members

Deaf Children of Culturally Deaf Parents
Deaf Children of Hearing Parents 
Hearing Members in Deaf Families 
Hard-of-Hearing Individuals 
Late-Deafened Individuals
Deaf Blind Individuals 
Multiple Communities 

Historical Highlights 
Contemporary Descriptions 

Deaf Gain 
Deaf Ethnicity 
People of the Eye
Deaf Epistemologies 



Chapter 2. Causes of Being Deaf and the Auditory Field
Determining One’s Hearing Level

Audiologists and Audiograms
Hearing Labels 
What Causes Changes in Hearing Levels? 

Genetic Causes

History of Auditory Technology
Current Auditory Innovations and Rehabilitation 

Hearing Level Screening
Hearing Aids 
Cochlear Implants 

The Cochlear Implant Controversy
Inspiration Porn 
Genetic Engineering 

Genetic Controversy



Part II. Signed Languages and Learning

Chapter 3. American Sign Language
Background of ASL and Other Sign Languages

Indigenous Communities and “Hand-Talk”
African American Communities and BASL 
European Communities 
Euro-American Communities 
Home Signs and Gestures 
Village Sign Languages 

How Sign Languages Are Spread

International Sign (IS) and Signed Languages Used Globally
ASL and English: Features, Content, and Structure 

ASL Content

The Manual Alphabet
ASL Learners and Strategies 
Dialects and Other Forms of Signed Communication 
Attitudes: Linguistic Imperialism 


Chapter 4. How Deaf Children Think, Learn, and Read
Culture, Learning, and Intelligence

Culture and Language
IQ Tests 
Thought and Language 

Cognitive Abilities

Cognition Shaped by Culture
Incidental Learning 
Joint Attention 
Visual Attention and Peripheral Vision 
Visual Imagery and Spatial Memory 
Metacognitive Abilities 

Theory of Mind
Executive Function 

Language Pathways

Early Gestures, Family Communication, and Play
Language Milestones 
The Brain, Multilingualism, and Sign Languages 
Theories and Strategies 

Literacy Learning

Developmental Pathways 

Deficit Models
Asset Model 



Chapter 5. Deaf Education, Deaf Culture, and Multiculturalism
Deaf Culture and Multiculturalism
Factors Impacting Schooling 

Age of Onset and Parental Hearing Status
Multilingualism, Multiculturalism, and Schooling 

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Deaf Students
Deaf Disabled Students 

Communication and Language Approaches

History of Deaf Education
Bilingual and Multilingual Approaches
Blended Approaches 
Monolingual Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) Approaches 
Communication Approaches and DeafDisabled Students 

School Settings

Center Schools
Private Oral Schools 
Day Schools 
Mainstream, Self-Contained Resource Room 
Charter Schools and Home Schools 

Technology, DeafSpace, and Classroom Acoustics
Educational Programming 

Early Childhood (EC) Levels (Birth to 5 Years)

Curriculum and Outcomes
Challenges in School 

K to 12th-Grade Levels (5 to 22 Years)

Curriculum and Outcomes

Transition and Postsecondary Educational Opportunities

Curriculum and Outcomes
Postsecondary Challenges 

Preparation of Teachers and Educational Interpreters

Educational Interpreter Training 
Challenges for Teachers and Interpreters 



Part III. Deaf Lives, Technology, Arts, and Career Opportunities

Chapter 6. Deaf Identities
Deaf Identities

Categories of Deaf Identities

Disability Framework
Social Identity Theory 
Racial Identity Development Framework 
Deaf Identity Development Framework 
Acculturation Model 
The Narrative Approach 


Sexual Orientation 



Chapter 7. Deaf Communities Within the Deaf Community


Chapter 8. Navigating Lives
Forms of Discrimination 

The Role of Relationships in Strengthening Resilience

The World of Work
Health Issues 
Mental Health Issues 
Domestic Violence 
Criminal Justice Issues 
Aging Issues 


Chapter 9. Technology and Accessibility
History: Foundations for Access
Deaf Community and Access 

Alerting Devices or Systems 
Wake-Up Devices 
Baby Alerting Devices 
Residential Security and Alarm Systems 
Emergency Announcements 
Assistive Systems and Devices 

Innovative Technology


Chapter 10. Deaf People and the Legal System: Education, Employment,and Criminal Justice
Education Laws 

Laws in Early Childhood 

Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EDHI) Act 
Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (Part C) 

Laws With School-Age Deaf Children

IDEA (Part B)
IDEA (Part A) 
American With Disabilities Act (ADA) 
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) 

Laws in Foster Care Placements

IDEA, ADA, and Section 504

Laws in Juvenile Justice Facility Placements

IDEA, ADA, and Section 504


Social Security Act
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 
Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) 

Higher Education

ADA and 504 Protections

Justice System

Family, Education, and Language Factors
Section 504 and ADA Protections 
The Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment 
Victims of Crimes 
Prevalence and Types of Crimes 

Sexual Offending Crimes 

The Criminal Justice Process

Barriers at the Arrest
Booking, Medical/Psychological Intake, and Orientation 
Barriers at Trial 
Barriers in Jail or Prison 
Barriers in Probation and Parole 



Chapter 11. Arts, Literature, and Media

Visual and Tactile Arts

Performing Arts

Deaf Theater
Deaf in Television and Movies 
Deaf in Game and Reality Shows 
Deaf Music and Dancing 


Literature in the Deaf Community
ASL Literature 
Deaf Literature: English 
Online ASL and Deaf Literature 


Deaf Images: Digital Arts and Photography
Deaf Motion: Cinema and Film 



Chapter 12. Advocating and Career Opportunities
Deaf-Hearing Collaboration 
Career Possibilities 

ASL Interpreters
Early Childhood Educators 
Speech and Language Therapists 
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors and Job Coaches 
Mental Health Service Providers 

Hotline Volunteer
Clinical Mental Health Counselor 
School Counselor 
Social Work 
Clinical Psychology 

Emergency Medical Technicians
Other Career Possibilities 



Chapter 13. Final Thoughts on Deaf Culture and Its Future



Irene W. Leigh

Irene W. Leigh, PhD, is a Deaf psychologist whose experience includes high school teaching, psychological assessment, psychotherapy, and private practice. From 1985 to 1991 she was a psychologist and assistant director at the Lexington Center for Mental Health Services. She taught in the Gallaudet University Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program from 1992 to 2012, was Psychology Department Chair from 2008 to 2012, and attained professor emerita status in 2012. Dr. Leigh serves on review boards of professional journals and was associate editor of the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education from 2005 to 2011. She has presented nationally and internationally on identity, depression, parenting, attachment, cochlear implants, and psychosocial adjustment, and has published more than fifty articles and book chapters in addition to authoring, coauthoring, and editing or coediting several books. As a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, she served on two task forces and the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest.

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Jean F. Andrews

Jean F. Andrews, PhD, received a bachelor's degree in English language and literature from Catholic University, in Washington, DC, a master's in education in Deaf education from McDaniel College (formerly Western Maryland College) in Westminster, Maryland, and a doctorate in speech and hearing sciences from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Dr. Andrews was a classroom teacher of reading at the Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick, Maryland. From 1983 to 1988, she prepared educational interpreters and teachers of Deaf students at Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky. From 1988 to 2015, she taught classes, prepared teachers and doctoral level leaders, and conducted applied research at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Dr. Andrews' research interests include language and literacy, Deaf Studies, ASL/English bilingualism, and forensic issues with deaf offenders. She has also served on the governing board of the Texas School for the Deaf. Currently, she is working on ASL/English science materials for struggling Deaf readers.

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Raychelle L. Harris

Raychelle L. Harris, PhD, a third generation Deaf and a native ASL signer, received her bachelor's degree in American Sign Language (ASL) from Gallaudet University in 1995 and master's degree in Deaf education from Western Maryland College in 2000. Dr. Harris has been teaching ASL as a first and second language since 1993. She returned to Gallaudet University for her doctoral studies in the areas of education and linguistics, with her dissertation topic focused on ASL discourse in academic settings. In 2008, Dr. Harris joined Gallaudet University's Department of Interpretation as a faculty member. Since 2009, she has been teaching with the Department of ASL and Deaf Studies, preparing future ASL teachers in the masters in sign language education program. She is also one of three editors of the Journal of ASL and Literature. Dr. Harris holds professional certification with the American Sign Language Teachers Association and is a Certified Deaf Interpreter.

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Topher González Ávila

Topher González Ávila, MA was born in Mexico City, Mexico. He moved to Dallas, Texas when he was a baby. His Deaf mom raised Topher and his two Deaf siblings in a multilingual family of Lengua de Señas Mexicana (LSM), American Sign Language (ASL), English and Spanish. Topher graduated from University of North Texas with Bachelor's degrees in Criminal Justice and Radio, Television & Film (RTVF) in 2015. He continued his education at Gallaudet University and graduated in 2018 with a Master's in Sign Language Education. Topher is a Certified Deaf Interpreter with the Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI) since 2016. He is the first Deaf Latinx interpreter in the state of Texas to hold a BEI Court Interpretation certification. Topher teaches for Gallaudet University's Master's in Sign Language Education program. Topher works as a community interpreter and a freelance video editor. Topher is proud to be Brown, Queer and Deaf. It was and still is a journey for him to finally embrace the person he is. He works with and for his communities especially, BIPOC Deaf youth and Queer Deaf youth through local, state and national organizational advocacy efforts.

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Deaf Culture: Exploring Deaf Communities in the United States, Second Edition comes with access to supplementary student and instructor materials on a PluralPlus companion website


To access the student materials, you must register on the companion website and log in using the access code printed on the inside front cover of your book.


To access the instructor materials, you must contact Plural Publishing, Inc. to be verified as an instructor and receive your access code.


            Tel: 866-758-7251 (toll free) or 858-492-1555

*Note for students: If you have purchased this textbook used or have rented it, your access code will not work if it was already redeemed by the original buyer of the book. Plural Publishing does not offer replacement access codes for used or rented textbooks.

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