Today I learned a very important distinction between terms. The term “deaf” with a lowercase “d” simply refers to people who have lost the ability to hear, whether from birth or from a later incident. “Deaf” with an uppercase “D” is a term referring to the specific culture of the deaf that a person with hearing loss may or may not identify with.
Some deaf people prefer to attempt to continue to communicate with others using verbalization, still identifying with the hearing culture. Most who see themselves as part of Deaf culture prefer to communicate via ASL, as it is the natural language of their culture. Some people stay equally proficient in both communication forms.
This distinction of terms was something I was not aware of. Knowing the difference between “deaf” and “Deaf” will certainly help me as I continue to study this fascinating language and the equally complex culture it helps to connect and form.