September is Deaf Awareness Month, when the deaf community celebrates its uniqueness and brings awareness, understanding and support to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind and late-deafened (those who lose hearing later in life).

We will celebrate at the Deaf Family Reunion Friday, Sept. 20, from 2:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at Marquette Park.  Everyone is invited to join the festivities.    

There are more than 100,000 members of the deaf community in the Memphis area and more than 750,000 across Tennessee.  Deafness is the third most common disability in the world, although members of the deaf community don’t see themselves as any less able than the hearing community. 

They experience life like the rest of us – with friends, families, challenges and successes.  Deaf individuals may communicate differently, but they have the same hopes and dreams as anyone else.   

Many deaf people communicate using American Sign Language

ASL is a visual language of movements of the hands, face and body.  Like spoken language, it’s different from sign languages in other countries.  Some deaf people read lips, but even the best lip readers catch less than half of what’s being said. That’s why the hand signs and facial expressions of ASL are so important when you’re communicating with someone who is deaf. 

Deaf people have made countless contributions to society

Ludwig van Beethoven created some of his greatest musical works after he was late-deafened. Thomas Edison was deaf, as was Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. In 1995, Heather Whitestone became the first deaf Miss America. Actress Marlee Matlin is deaf, and Nyle Dimarco was the first deaf winner of both America’s Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars.