I choose to capitalize "Deaf" for all Deaf (and Hard of Hearing) people, not to signify any cultural affiliation, but to emphasize the common ethnicity of Deaf people. I believe that the d/D distinction is unnecessarily divisive, cumbersome, and ultimately more trouble than it is worth, although it did serve an important purpose in its time. But using Deaf for all does not signify cultural membership, just as not all Black people are necessarily part of Black culture or all Jews are practicing religious Jews.Since I'm persona non grata over at Deaf Echo I will as usual make my responses here and write my opinions on what Don Grushkin said. I will disagree with his attempt to move the goal post on what "D"eaf is to mean nowadays.
Noticeably over the past few years a few notable people in the culturally deaf community have been attempting to change the meaning and definition of the word "Deaf" to include any and all deaf and hard of hearing people, including culturally deaf people. But the problem is that the term "Deaf" with the upper case "D" has always denoted to mean culturally deaf people and this was explained by Carol Padden and Tom Humphries, in Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture (1988) on the meaning and difference between "D"eaf and "d"eaf:
We use the lowercase deaf when referring to the audiological condition of not hearing, and the uppercase Deaf when referring to a particular group of deaf people who share a language – American Sign Language (ASL) – and a culture. The members of this group have inherited their sign language, use it as a primary means of communication among themselves, and hold a set of beliefs about themselves and their connection to the larger society.Granted. The culturally deaf community was able to grant their own exclusive right to capitalize the letter 'd' in "deaf" to mean one thing and one thing only as exactly as what Carol Padden and Tom Humphries pointed out. And become members of an exclusive heritage group or so they say. Otherwise by not accepting the very definition set forth almost 30 years ago by Padden and Humphries would mean it could no longer to specifically mean culturally deaf people. It would simply become a generic brand with no identification on culture and language (ASL) that ties itself to a specific heritage group. In fact, that very act would devalue the very word "Deaf" away from the culturally deaf community and disappears altogether with no identity at all. AGBell members who are deaf or hard of hearing who do not know a lick of sign language are now defacto Deaf people. No need to focus on ASL, deaf culture, culturally heritage and language. All that would be rather strange if not outright blasphemous to a lot of culturally deaf people and of all things coming from a guy who is helping run Deafhood Foundation. Funny how one thinks that by saying deaf/Deaf is "divisive" yet there were ASL-only Deafhood workshops (here, too). So much for the concept of including everybody this "Deaf" idea of Don Grushkin's.
Another thing, there is no common ethnicity that ALL deaf and hard of hearing people share regarding their physical trait on hearing loss. Ethnic means that a group of people either share a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage. Nothing about hearing loss which is a physical trait. The only commonality here we all share is hearing loss whether it is bilateral or unilateral. Whether born with it or acquired hearing loss later in life. And that communication access, as it varies from one person with a hearing loss to another, is the other commonality amongst them as well. Some struggle more than others. Some are fine with it. Some do not have the need to sign while others do require sign language to communicate.
What has been divisive is some of the nonsense deaf politics that have been going on for years rather than over two simple words, deaf and Deaf. There are two groups. The culturally deaf group and the not culturally deaf group. You have hard of hearing, deaf, and culturally deaf. And that's a fact of life.