Deaf Culture

Deaf culture encompasses a group's identification as a distinct cultural entity, with a unique language and experience that ties the members of this group.   It includes the history, folklore, values, behavior, and beliefs of the deaf community.

Some topics included in this category are:

  • Sign language

  • linguistics

  • Deaf history

  • Deaf folklore

  • Deaf education

  • Deaf organizations


Van Cleve, John, ed.  Gallaudet Encyclopedia of deaf people and deafness.  (On reserve at the Deaf Services reference desk).

This is a good place to start to find some topics on deaf culture.  Use the index in volume 3 to find articles with these topics: deaf community, folklore, deaf population, history and education.  The article by Yerker Andersson, "Culture and subculture" in Volume 1 on pages 261-264, is a good introduction to deaf culture.

Gannon, Jack.  Deaf heritage: a narrative history of deaf America.

This is the book that started it all.  It showcases the history of deaf people in America, starting with the first school for the deaf in 1817 to the 1980s.  Notable deaf people and important events in deaf people's lives are also included.

Baynton, Douglas C.  Through deaf eyes : a photographic history of an American community.

This is the companion book to the video Through Deaf Eyes.

Introduction to American deaf culture / Thomas K. Holcomb.

Thomas Holcomb, professor of Deaf Education at Ohlone College in Fremont, explains deaf culture.

Inside deaf culture / Carol Padden, Tom Humphries.

Two professors from the University of California at San Diego look at deaf culture.

Understanding deaf culture : in search of deafhood / Paddy Ladd.

A professor from the University of Bristol in England presents an alternative view of deaf culture.


Periodicals are good places to find recent information on deaf culture.  On the SFPL website, there are some databases you can use to find articles on deaf culture.  Keep in mind that some periodicals related to deaf culture (like California News and Gallaudet Today) are not covered in any databases.  Ask the library staff in Deaf Services for assistance.

Online databases

Two good databases on the SFPL website are: Academic OneFile (Gale) and Academic Search Complete (Ebsco).  Use the keywords DEAF CULTURE to find articles.


Videos are available in Deaf Services by the back wall and also at the reference desk.  Some good videos to start with are:

American culture: the deaf perspective.  San Francisco Public Library & Deaf Media, inc.

Set of 4 DVDs on deaf culture produced by San Francisco Public Library and Deaf Media.  The four DVDs are subtitled: Deaf Heritage, Deaf Folklore, Deaf Literature, and Deaf Minorities.

Through deaf eyes.

This is based on Jack Gannon’s book Deaf Heritage.

Deaf culture autobiography

Prominent people in the deaf community tell their life stories.

Deaf culture lecture

Nathie Marbury explains some aspects of deaf culture.

Vertical files

The Deaf Services Center has vertical files on deaf culture in the drawers next to the videophone. Please ask library staff for assistance.

Guide to deaf biographies

A comprehensive listing of biographies of deaf people sponsored by Gallaudet University's library.

Index to deaf periodicals

Gallaudet University resources on deaf culture

This is an excellent resource on deaf culture created by the staff at the library of Gallaudet University.