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Introduction to Deafhood

Course Code: INTR 1101
Faculty: Child, Family & Community Studies
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course is an introduction to Deaf culture and to the richness of the local, regional and global Deaf community. The key cultural elements of signed language, values, norms for interaction, traditions and artistic expression will be highlighted. Deaf community members' various life pathways and diverse identities will be explored, and contrasted with society's perspectives on what it means to be Deaf.

Course Content

The Deaf community as a linguistic and cultural minority

  • Shared values, norms, traditions
  • Community goals and advocacy
  • Creative arts and literature

Perspectives on being Deaf

  • Deafhood as cultural identity
  • Pathways, shared and individual journeys to Deafhood
  • Medicalized/pathological perspectives – Deafhood as disability

Social structures within the Deaf community in Canada

  • Informal group, family, social connections and activities
  • Formal organizations (e.g., sport, advocacy, education)
  • Local, regional, national and international structures and associations

Diversity within the Deaf community

  • Intersectional identities (e.g., race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identities)
  • Identities within Deafhood (Hard of hearing; Deafblind, late-deafened)
  • Other social factors (family, class, education, employment)

Visual-gestural language

  • Principles of visual-gestural languages (contrasted with spoken-auditory languages)
  • Overview of grammar, syntactical structures, pragmatic norms and literary forms of visual-gestural languages
  • ASL, LSQ and ISL use in Canada

The following major concepts guide the design and delivery of this course:

1.         The Deaf community comprises a vibrant linguistic and cultural minority whose members are connected to each other through shared values, norms, art, traditions and especially the primacy of using a signed language.

2.         The creativity and strength of the Deaf community contribute positively to the larger human society; Deaf lives exemplify unique and enriching ways of seeing and being in the world. The Deaf community has its own informal structures and formal organizations in areas such as advocacy, sport, art and culture; these exist on local, regional, national and international levels.

3.         A pathological view of Deaf people as disabled and in need of repair has been prevalent in our society, perpetuating attitudinal and systemic barriers to access to opportunities for education, employment, autonomy and inclusion.

4.         There is diversity within the Deaf community; members have various intersecting personal/social/group identities (race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc) and they have varied life experiences of family, upbringing, education, employment, and all aspects of participation in society.

5.         Members of the Deaf community share much in common but also differ in key ways that impact their particular ways of living, communicating, interacting and using language; some identify as hard of hearing, Deafblind, late-deafened, or other.

6.         ASL (American Sign Language), LSQ (la langue des signes québécoises) and ISL (Indigenous Sign Languages) are rich, visual-gestural languages used by Deaf people in Canada. Signed languages are distinctly different from spoken languages; they have their own syntax, vocabulary, grammatical structures, pragmatic norms and literary forms.

Methods of Instruction

- lecture/seminar

- small group work

- guest speakers

- course readings/video

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on a combination of individual and group work, and at the instructor’s discretion may include presentations and written assignments, papers, quizzes and exams. A sample distribution of graded assignments follows:

•  Field research group project – interview of community members

o  Written summary 15%

o  Presentation 15%

•  Essays 2 x 15%

•  Quizzes 30%

•  Attendance and participation 10%

This is a letter graded course.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

•          Define the key elements of Deaf culture: language, values, norms, traditions;

•          Recognize the significance of the use of signed languages among the Deaf population; 

•          Describe key features of the everyday lives, successes and challenges of members of the Deaf community; 

•          Describe the parameters, commonalities and differences within the realm of Deafhood;

•          Examine the diverse and intersecting personal and group identities within the Deaf community;

•          Define audism and recognize its systemic effects on Deaf people’s access and inclusion; 

•          Describe the diversity and language use among people who identify as Deafblind;

•          Identify local, national and international Deaf organizations and their mandates for advocacy, sports, art and culture;

•          Identify the key structural differences between visual-gestural languages and spoken-auditory languages. 

course prerequisites

No prerequisites.


No corequisites.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.