The Deconstruction of Deafness as a Disability

Degree Name

MA in International and Intercultural Management

First Advisor

Ryland White


The purpose of the research was to explore the question of disability as applied to the Deaf community. Historically deafness has been defined from a medical perspective, as an infirmity or pathology. The Deaf community however, defines itself as a linguistic and cultural group. They experience themselves as a language minority, not one based on infirmity. As with other minority or oppressed groups in our society it is important to examine the source of the currently accepted view. The question examined was: What is the theoretical basis for defining deafness as a disability?

A critical social science (CSS) research paradigm or approach was used with an interpretative methodology. Written materials about culture, language, the experience of colonization, and deafness, as it is currently defined, were analyzed. A review of the development of the overall concept of disability within the framework of Western thought and politics was also reviewed to better understand the origins of the concept of disability and what is considered "normal."

It is clear from the research that the concept of disability arose for a political and economic purpose. In reviewing the historical context of this development we can begin to understand the significance of the label of "disabled" in the context of Deaf people. The research indicates that the theory of disability is a socially constructed concept and one that the deaf community neither identifies with nor accurately fits into. The overwhelming evidence indicates the reality of the Deaf experience as a linguistic and cultural minority that has been institutionally and socially oppressed through domination and colonization.


Politics and Social Change | Sociology of Culture

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