Do we need Deaf clubs at all?

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This document summarizes a discussion which was held at October 1995 in the DEAF-L mailing list. The summary consists of a question asked by Omer Zak followed by answers from several people.

If you have any new insights or ideas, you are urged to contribute to the discussion by either posting to DEAF-L or E-mailing Omer Zak.

The following people contributed to the discussion:

  1. Omer Zak
  2. David N. Jackson
  3. Vikee Waltrip
  4. Richard L Cohen
  5. Laurence L. Plate, Jr.
  6. Amy M Harr
  7. Philip N. Moos


(Contributed by Omer Zak at 4 Oct 1995.)

In the far past, Deaf people came to Deaf clubs in large numbers. They considered the Club to be 2nd home. The clubs served as places for socializing, swapping information, making deals, getting services, etc. It was not difficult to find volunteers to run the clubs. The clubs were essential so volunteers could profit from having high status.

Nowadays, the attendance of clubs has dropped. I (and several others) believe that this is due to TTY/FAX availability - allows Deaf people to conduct social lives (by meeting at homes and exchanging messages on phone lines) without needing the Club. Another factor is higher education and level of integration with Hearing population. With higher education, there is less need to come to lectures in the Deaf club or to get news in the Club. One can read the newspaper instead.

Also, it is more difficult to get volunteers to run the clubs when the clubs are less essential to the population.

Thus, the role of being 2nd home is not as essential as it was in the past. We need strong Associations of the Deaf because we need political clout to keep our rights and gain more rights as needed to fully function in the larger society (regardless of whether we are integrated with it or lead separate social lives).

In view of the changing circumstances, I would like to ask if we still need Deaf clubs and what new roles should they fill (if at all).

(Contributed by David N. Jackson at 5 Oct 1995.)

Deaf clubs in the UK are having the same problems as you are facing in Israel and USA. Dwindling numbers of members; lack of volunteers to run committees; sheer apathy everywhere; better things to do elsewhere; etc; etc.

Deaf clubs function as coffeehouses

(Contributed by Vikee Waltrip at 4 Oct 1995.)

By all means, we do need the clubs. Like churches for some people, or other specialized social organizations like the Scuba Divers Club or Int'l Male Crossdressers Clubs where people get together to share their common interests and do things together......I believe we are missing that essential link to our own cultural identity.

Los Angeles once had a thriving and self-supported Club for the Deaf that went out of business due to lack of interest in the mid-80's. Nowawdays, I have been listening to people talking about how we used to use the clubs to perform skits, or had closed captioned movies, sponsor sports organizations, sat at the bar and cried in our beer cups or the occassional cladestine poker games going on in the back rooms. Perhaps the level of education has increased, but why does it have to stop us from getting together occassionally and doing seminars or workshops, Having self-help meetings, playing games, developing community support, and of course, when it comes to the political arena, using our own individual abilities to kick butt with the Politicians who serve our districts.

I do not want to blame the TTY/Faxes or Closed Captions on TV, because I have found they expanded my world beyond the wildest dreams of a girl who once thought life was over after she grew up. What I do miss though, is the cultural exposure that I had lived without while growing up, and discovered as an adult.

Lately, a lot of deaf people have begun to hang out at a coffeehouse in town. Sometimes I think the 1990's version of a Deaf club is the Coffeehouse, because alcohol is not so much the drink of choice these days.

I have been considering doing just that, set up a coffee house, making it Deaf-Friendly, but open to all, and allowing those new and budding sign language students who want and need to practice their signing abilities as well as mingle with Deaf people, and vice-versa. I think hearing people nowadays are much more receptive to the idea of the Deaf identity....and seems much more accepting of who we are, once we put ourselves out there. (of course there are a few what!)

I say, we bring back a Deaf Club concept........and preserve our cultural heritage, regardless of whether they are Deaf, deaf, oralist, HOH, Late-Deafnened or CODAs.

Deaf clubs develop leadership capabilities

(Contributed by Richard L Cohen at 4 Oct 1995.)

One useful role of Deaf clubs is to give the members more opportunities for leadership roles. I've seen this to be a great confidence builder and the effects do carry over to mainstram society. Of course, there are many other benefits, but this one is often overlooked.

IMHO, size is not as critical as setting realistic goals. Our regional Deaf club started as a local club with only 15 members and slowly grew to close to 200 members. Many complain when under 50 people show up for our "boring" meetings (sigh!) Finding volunteers to run our activities is, of course, a big problem -- but it's seems to be the same for society in general.

Income tax considration of private clubs

(Contributed by Laurence L. Plate, Jr. at 5 Oct 1995.)

One possible factor of private clubs today is due to the IRS Tax Code which was reformed in 1986, making private clubs a bit different and some former clubs have reformed into "community centers" to continue their traditional role in the Deaf Culture, expanding their functionality beyond the traditional social and recreation modes long enjoyed by deaf clubs, in order to serve the growing diversity of special interests in the deaf community.

It is true that the volunteering spirit is waning among us and we should not overlook that it is also true with many hearing non-profit organizations which are losing their membership bases. In a nutshell, all of us are in the same boat together.

One club was just reorganized into a Section 501 (c) (3) exempt organization in order to secure funding for its new community center in Phoenix, Arizona and it is no longer a private club now which could not get donations until this fact.

Socialize and learn in Deaf clubs

(Contributed by Amy M Harr at 6 Oct 1995.)

I think that we still need to have deaf clubs around because there is socializing and all what omer listed. i'm part of m.c.d. club im missoula montana since i m attending the university of montana and there's not a big deaf population around here. There is about 20 or so deaf people around here.. there are 7 deaf students at u.of m. but not one of them are members of m.c.d. . They would rather be stuck in their own little group and they don't want to socialize.. I would rather be socializing because being around other deaf people in the community is important. I would be damn crazy if I isolated myself from the deaf community. sure some deaf clubs have older people like tacoma association for the deaf(tad) in tacoma washington. they were all retired! i didn't like that but here in missoula the age ranges from 19 to 60 years old. thats better.. i hope when i move to california or some southwestern state after 4 or 5 years at u. of montana that i will find a deaf club with people my age! You also learn some deaf history/culture that the hearing world won't teach you or don't want you to learn.

Suggestions for attractive activities in Deaf clubs

(Contributed by Philip N. Moos at 5 Sep 1995.)

Someone posed the following problem:

I am faced with the problem that most of the people who come to the activities in the club, which I manage, are 50+ years old, giving the club distinct "senior citizen club" image which turns off the more younger people. One of the consequences is that we do not have enough leader-quality people to carry on the club's activities. Right now the board of the club is understaffed (must have at least 3 heads, now has 2 heads).

I'd like to know what activities could attract the younger Deaf.

Philip N. Moos's reply:

First of all, our organization is not a club, but rather a civic organization. What we do is advocate and provide a small number of services. One is being on the Relay Advisory Council.

However, I'll try to answer your question: how to attract people into your club?

One way I see is by having games. Prizes would be in cash. You need to be sure you bring in the people who would be willing to spend in order to win prizes.

As to lobbying for your rights in your country's society, you will need to get a group of people together and develop goals and missions.

You have to remind people that many things would not have happened if it were not for your organization. For example, we would not have had a Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing within the state government if it were not for our organization. We would not have the Interpreter program if it were no for our organization. You can make your list of your accomplishments, derived from the fact that it was your people within the organization who made it possible.

Last update date: 
2005 Nov 28