September is Deaf Awareness Month in North Carolina

Governor Roy Cooper has proclaimed September as Deaf Awareness Month to celebrate and raise awareness about people who are Deaf and belong to a cultural and linguistic community, with shared language, social norms, rules of behavior and history.

This year commemorates 70 years since the first congress of the World Federation of the Deaf, which was held in September of 1951.

There are 1.2 million individuals with hearing loss in North Carolina with a projected increase to 1.6 million by 2030. The Deaf population includes individuals born profoundly deaf and use American Sign Language (ASL), a fully operating functional language, as a primary means of communication, to those with a range of hearing loss who use hearing aids, assistive listening devices or other forms of amplifications and communication modes.

“Becoming an ally for the Deaf community by learning how to effectively communicate with Deaf people and learning more about the resources available helps promote accessibility and communication equity for the Deaf community,” said Jan Withers, Director of the Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services “For example, the state uses sign language interpreters and captions during Gov. Cooper’s press conferences during times of emergency to help ensure Deaf and Hard of Hearing people are just as prepared as the general population for emergencies.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted communications in the Deaf community, aggravating the barriers to communication equity. With masks needing to be worn to slow the spread of COVID-19 in many settings, especially in health care, it became harder for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community to communicate through the use of lip reading or facial expressions when communicating through ASL. However, the pandemic has also provided opportunities for creative solutions such as wearing clear masks, using speech-to-text apps and other communication aid resources.

The Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and its seven Regional Centers provides services, including advocacy for communication access, consultation, capacity building education, Deaf culture and ASL awareness and linking those who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or DeafBlind to needed services and resources.

Visit www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/services-deaf-and-hard-hearing for additional information.