September: Deaf Awareness Month 2021

Did you know that deaf and hard of hearing individuals may use more than one mode of communication for access?  

September is Deaf Awareness Month and the Marion Downs Center remains committed to providing inclusive and equitable services for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.  

Deafness comes in many different forms from individuals born profoundly deaf to adults who lose their hearing later in life. Not all deaf individuals identify with Deaf culture. Some may have vision challenges in addition to hearing loss.

Many different types of accommodations exist for the deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf/blind too! Access refers to the ability to get information auditory, visually, or tactile and typically refers to modes of communication but can also refer to environmental information such as alarms or the sound of knocking on a door. Accommodations refer to the types of supports to facilitate access or provide an equitable experience.   

Modes of Communication

Hearing people traditionally communicate through spoken language as their primary mode of communication while deaf and hard of hearing individuals may communicate visually.  

American Sign Language (ASL) is a separate language from English and does not rely on auditory skills for communication. Like English, variations of American Sign Language exists, including Black ASL. Did you know there are estimated to be between 150 and 300 unique sign languages around the world?

Cued Speech, created at Gallaudet University in 1966, provides visual access to spoken language through hand shapes around the mouth and was intended to complement American Sign Language for visual access and to support literacy development in deaf and hard of hearing children. Over 60 languages and dialects have been adapted into cued languages.  

English-based Sign Systems such as Signed Exact English or sim-com systems using a combination of speaking and signing also are in use today within deaf education programs. 

Families may use a combination of signing and cueing in addition to spoken language for communication.  

Types of Accommodations

Accommodations come in many different forms for the deaf and hard of hearing. From bed shakers to help people wake up on time to flashing doorbells, there are ways to make people’s homes more accessible. Service providers also offer access in the form of captioning, cued language transliterating, sign language interpreting, and note taking. Remote services are available as well.  

  • American Sign Language interpreters 
  • Assistive Listening Devices  
  • CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation)  
  • Captioned Media (Closed or Open Captioning 
  • Cued Language Transliterators  
  • Hearing Technology (cochlear implants & hearing aids)  
  • Note Takers & Audio Transcripts
  • Testing Accommodations 
  • Tactile Alarm Systems (Bed shakers)  
  • Video Relay Services  
  • Video Remote Interpreting (American Sign Language and Cued American English)  
  • Visual Emergency Alert Systems  

The Marion Downs Center is committed to supporting deaf and hard of hearing individuals. We collaborate with community partners to provide inclusive programming for children and adults. Here are some resources to learn more about modes of communication and accommodations.  

Resources to Explore: 

Alexander Graham Bell Association

Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing/Deaf Blind

Colorado Hands & Voices

Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center

National Association of the Deaf

National Cued Speech Association