Throughout the month of September, the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) joins the world in promoting the annual Deaf Awareness Week (DAW), Sept. 23-28.

This week is the time to celebrate the culture, heritage and language unique to deaf people of the world. Currently, there are more than 55 million people in the United States experiencing some degree of hearing loss and in Arizona there are more than 700,000 people who are hard of hearing, and more than 20,000 who are culturally deaf.

Deaf Awareness Week is an opportunity to promote the rights of deaf people throughout the world, which includes education for deaf people, access to information and services, the use of sign languages, and human rights for deaf people. Recognition of achievements by deaf people, past and present is acknowledged. The misconceptions of being deaf and the challenges the deaf population face during everyday life are brought to light and shared with the greater population. Learning sign language and other ways deaf people communicate allows one to gain insights and better understanding of the deaf culture and its norms.

Society should understand that deaf individuals are just as capable, able, and intelligent as hearing individuals. There is a difference in the way those that are deaf communicate, but it is not a handicap or disability. Deaf Awareness Week is about promoting the positive aspects of being deaf and “social inclusion” and raise awareness about deaf people and its culture.

As we (the deaf community) continue to face a variety of issues of barriers and oppression, we need to continue in being proactive with our actions, show pride in our identity as a deaf individual, and constantly embrace and cherish the uniqueness of deaf culture.

An example of what ACDHH does in the community to improve the quality of life for the deaf and the hard of hearing is work with a variety of industries to better understand and communicate with deaf individuals. One of these industries is health care — a situation in which clear communication between a patient and service provider could mean the difference between life and death. ACDHH offers a free, comprehensive training course for health care providers in order to ensure proper information is being given and received.

Not only is it the responsibility of a health care provider to provide effective communication for the deaf and the hard of hearing, it’s the law. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, regardless of the provider’s size or number of employees. The health care providers’ curriculum offers valuable information on the options available to achieve the effective communication that is required without threatening the livelihood of the business.

Join ACDHH in celebrating Deaf Awareness throughout the month of September in recognizing the past, present, and future contributions and achievements that have paved the way to where we are today.

For more information on the events taking place during Deaf Awareness Week, visit

• Beca Bailey and Sean Furman are both deaf specialists with the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing. Information and referral, community development and outreach education are among the services they help provide.

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