ZPIG - Zak's Politically Incorrect Glossary

For related articles, click:


The purpose of this Glossary is to define various concepts, whose existence may have escaped the attention of some people who participate in the Oral vs. Manual arguments. As such, no attempt to be Politically Correct was made in choosing the terms used. The important point was to clarify the concepts behind the terms and make distinctions as needed.

About the definition and usage of certain terms, there is huge controversy. In such cases, I tried to include all points of view.

DISCLAIMER: I make no claim to give equal time to all points of view or even to any point of view. If your favorite point of view is missing, then send me a message. However, I reserve the right to reject your suggestion! An URL to a document discussing your point of view has better chance of being included in this Glossary than the text itself.

In addition to the people who are menioned as contributors to individual entries, also the following people contributed to the Glossary: Miriam Clifford, John Campbell, Lew Golan and T. Shellabarger.

Of course, all responsibility remains mine, because I am the editor and maintainer.


audiologically deaf

A term, suggested by Miriam Clifford, which can be used in order to discuss the medical (contrary to cultural) aspects of deafness. The meaning is the same as that of the term medically deaf, which was suggested by Omer Zak.

Audism (o^ diz m) n.

The notion that one is superior based on one's ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears.

This phrase was coined by Tom Humphries.

Tom notes that audism is not only practiced by hearies but by certain deafies as well. It takes various forms from subtle to outright intimidation. Some examples Tom gave are :

"The deaf must learn English (forget ASL) because when they grow up they will have to function in the hearing society and need it to find jobs, find happiness and have a full and useful life."

"But she can't use the phone."

"Oh, you have such beautiful speech. What is your hearing loss?"

"But we don't need a tty. There are no deaf people here."

(Was contributed by James Womack at 14 Sep 1994.)


Bi-Bi=Bilingual, Bicultural (or multicultural for minorities)


Opinion 1:
Bi-bi is a short name for bicultural and bilingual philosophy. If you ask advocates of bi-bi for the definition, you will not get one but as many definitions as they are. Basically, bi-bi philosophy believes that giving equal footing to ASL and English language will move the level of the quality of education for deaf students higher than what are being used in all deaf schools of which the most common is Total Communication.

(Contributed by Joseph P. Riolo at 22 Nov 1993.)

Opinion 2:
To give another perspective: A couple of weeks ago I attended a lecture by one of the leaders in the Bi-Bi movement, a real visionary for Bi-Bi. His focus was more on the cultural than the language part. He talked about the deaf child of hearing parents needing both Family and Deaf culture (and therefore both Family and Deaf language) from infancy. He talked a lot about attitudes, perspectives, and mutual respect which need to evolve in both the Family (hearing) and Deaf cultures for Bi-Bi to really succeed. Bi-Bi was not presented as a method for success in English, but rather as an opportunity for cultural diversity and the resulting ability to operate successfully within both cultural frameworks and to respect both cultures.

(Contributed by Richard A. Peters at 22 Nov 1993.)

Opinion 3:
The philosophy suggests that since a strong foundation in one langugae aids in the learning of a second language (research proven) that ASL (the only TRUE signed LANGUAGE in the US) should be the language of instruction. ASL will be utilized to teach English.

At the same time, since most Deaf children are born to hearing parents, the teaching of Deaf culture is an integral part of the Deaf child's learning experience [ as well as their familial culture(s)].

(Contributed by Sandra Barbosa [email protected] at 23 Nov 1993.)

Opinion 4:
But ASL is NOT English and, in my opinion is limited in some crucial ways in comparison, so using it to teach English limits the knowledge of English.

Cued Speech is also a 'true' signed form of English and should be considered more seriously. Why discard a visual form that presents full English for no good reason?

(Contributed by Miriam Clifford at 30 Sep 1995.)

See also: Total Communication.

Classical Oralism

A method of educating deaf persons, which relies exclusively upon speech and lipreading (speechreading) for meeting all their communication needs. Advocates of this method banned Sign Language, under the belief that if Sign is used, children won't bother to learn to speak. Some extremists advocated postponing of instruction of reading and writing, because the skills of reading and writing would reduce the incentive to learn to speak and lipread.

Opinion 1:
Teachers, who adhere to this methodology, spend lots and lots of time on speech and lipreading training of their students, at expense of learning other topics in school. Some of the students who "do well" in this methodology ("oral successes") have very good voice, but low general level of knowledge, and their social skills are wanting.

Opinion 2:
Orally-educated students do not have to suffer from low general level of knowledge because they rely on reading books as source of their knowledge. However they lack the knowledge of deaf's rights. They deny their deafness and think they are like hearing people as "normal" people. Yes, social skills are wanting and they lack leadership skills. They tend to be a loner.

Classical Oralist

Someone who is so committed to Oralism as to advocate banning of Sign Language and harsh punishment for those who dare to sign in school settings.


(hearing) Child Of Deaf Adult.

culturally deaf

See: Deaf.


Deaf Child of Deaf Adult.


The NAD Redbook and the BiCultural Center in Maryland have definitions for hard-of-hearing, deaf, and Deaf.

Deaf (capitalized D) is a person, be he hearing, hard-of-hearing, or deaf, who is richly exposed to the Deaf culture.

One of the implications of embracing the Deaf culture is usage of Sign Language for most (if not all) of communication with friends and in cultural events.

Another opinion:
Having been richly exposed to the Deaf culture does not automatically make one Deaf. For this to happen, one has to want to be, and be member of the Deaf culture.

(Contributed by Miriam Clifford at 30 Sep 1995.)


The NAD Redbook and the BiCultural Center in Maryland have definitions for hard-of-hearing, deaf, and Deaf.

deaf (lowercase d) is a person who cannot use phone with voice.

Another definition for this term restricts it to those people who are medically, but not culturally, deaf.


Deaf [offspring or children] Of Deaf [parents]


Deaf [offspring or children] Of Hearing [parents]


Great Terminology War.

hard of hearing

The NAD Redbook and the BiCultural Center in Maryland have definitions for hard-of-hearing, deaf, and Deaf.

hard-of-hearing is a person with hearing impairment, who can use phone with voice.

Hard of hearing are people who suffer from some hearing loss yet can use hearing aids and/or assistive listening devices to understand speech. However, there is the question about people who can't hear in certain situations, such as crowds. Some of those situations present problems also to normally-hearing people. The dividing line between normal hearing and hard of hearing - is fuzzy.

See also: profoundly deaf.

hearing impaired

This term is used to denote, as a group, people who either Deaf, deaf or hard of hearing.

This term is controversial and regarded by several people as Politically Incorrect because it implies that Deaf people are impaired in some important way.


See: hard of hearing.


Hearing Offspring of Hearing Adults.

lingual deaf

Person who acquired language at the normal age of language acquisition (usually before age 3). The acquired language can be a spoken language (if the person was born hearing and later lost it) or a sign language (if the person was born deaf or is CODA).

It is generally believed that lingual deaf have better chances of success in academic settings than non-lingual deaf.

This term was suggested by Omer Zak. See postlingually deaf.

Manual failure

deaf person who was educated using Sign Language, and due to cognitive and/or motor problems, he/she cannot use Sign Language for effective communication. Those problems may have existed from birth and/or have developed at later age. Such persons may have better luck using augmentative and/or assistive communication techniques. It is doubtful whether they would have been able to effectively use speech and lipreading.


A training and education methodology that acquired the status of life philosophy, which advocates usage of Sign Language by hearing impaired people, for whom speech and lipreading are very difficult. Since group communication is difficult for several hearing impaired persons of all hearing abilities, Sign Language is advocated as a means of communication for all hearing impaired persons.

medically deaf

A term, suggested by Omer Zak, which can be used in order to discuss the medical (contrary to cultural) aspects of deafness.

Hearing, or rather hearing loss, is usually measured in terms of how loud a sound must be for an individual to be able to hear it. The measured loudness of the sound is subtracted from the loudness required for an average person to be able to hear it. The difference is called "hearing loss", and it is measured in decibels.
The measurements are done at five or six tone frequencies, and the results are plotted in a graph, known as audiogram. This graph relates the hearing loss in decibels to the tone frequency.

The audiologists (specialists who perform the above measurements) consider a person to be hearing impaired if he suffers from hearing loss of at least 20 decibels. If the hearing loss is 70 decibels or more, the person is considered to be "profoundly deaf" from audiological point of view.

It must be noted that the audiological point of view is not the only criteria to be considered when assessing the functionality of someone's hearing.

See also: audiologically deaf.


Not Even Related to Deaf Adult i.e. an adult person who has no relationship to any deaf person whatsoever.

non-lingual deaf

Person who did not acquire a language at the normal age of language acquisition (usually before age 3). This can happen because the person was born deaf or lost his hearing before having opportunity to acquire language. A person exposed to Sign Language before age 3 will nevertheless acquire a language and become lingual deaf.

This term was suggested by Omer Zak. See also: postlingually deaf.

Oral deaf

deaf person who was educated using Oral methods, and when grown up didn't gravitate toward the Deaf culture and didn't learn Sign Language. It is believed by some people that those persons have, on the average, poorer social life than those deaf persons who chose to embrace the Deaf culture.

Several deaf people, who were educated using Oral methods, nevertheless gravitate toward Deaf Culture at adult age and learn Sign Language.

Oral failure

deaf person who was educated using the Oral method, stressing lipreading and speech. However it didn't work out for the person and he/she grew up deprived of both sign language and real knowledge of the language used by the society in which they are.


A training and education methodology that acquired the status of life philosophy, which advocates the emphasis of speech and lipreading as the preferred method of communication to be used by hearing impaired people.

postlingually deaf

Person who was born hearing and lost it after acquiring spoken language (i.e. at age 3 or later).

From point of view of diagnosing and treating language problems, a better term is: lingual deaf.

prelingually deaf

Person who was born deaf or lost hearing before acquisition of any language - spoken or signed.

The usual definition (by the hearing world) is: born deaf or lost hearing before the expected age of onset of spoken language.

From point of view of diagnosing and treating language problems, a better term is: non-lingual deaf.

profoundly deaf

Can hear some sounds but does not have sufficient hearing and/or discrimination ability to be able to follow speech by hearing alone, regardless of amplification being used.

The dividing line between profoundly deaf and hard of hearing is very fuzzy. On one hand, there are people who can use their hearing to understand speech, once they are provided with some amplification. They are 'hard of hearing'. On the other hand, there are people such that no amount of amplification can help them understand speech even under the most favorable conditions. They are 'profoundly deaf'.

In between them, there are people who can understand speech under certain favorable circumstances but not otherwise. None of the existing labels fit them exactly, and they have to resort to a long description of their specific conditions.


Abbreviation for Telecommunication Device for the Deaf. Nowadays this term is considered to be politically incorrect, because also people who are hearing but speech-impaired use this device.

See: TTY. See also the TTY FAQ.


See: TTY.

Total Communication

(Contributed by Sandra Barbosa at 23 Nov 1993.)

How is Bi-Bi different from total communication?

The 'definition" of total communication is using all means possible to teach or convey an idea. Utilize ASL, SEE, written English, pictures, gestures etc.

Sounds great right......well typically total communication really means simultaneous communication or speaking English and attempting to sign at the same time. Utilizing this limits the childs language experience since they are never exppsed to complex English or complex ASL.

Despite what some may say, ASL -only supporters do not only sign ASL. Just like hearing teachers with hearing students, if they students aren't comprehending a concept a new route must be taken. Rewording, role playing, pictures, gestures, hands-on experiences whatever helps....

seems to me that ASL is true total communication also because no student is left out. What do I mean? Well, all students can learn ASL thus, if instruction is in ASL ALL students get the information TOTALLY. If SIM-COM is utilized (talking and signing) some of the students get the information from the vocalization and lip reading, some of the students manage to piece together the sign blurbs flashing unrhythmically at them, and some just don't get it.

Another opinion (contributed by Sondra L. Wildman at 3 Dec 1993):
The term "total communication" has two different meanings:

  1. You use every tool you have to get the concepts and information understood by the student. This could include: ASL, SEE, PSE, voice, mime, drawing, etc. But usually you use only one method at a time.
  2. Sign supported speech, that is, signing and voicing simultaneously.

People often confuse between those two meanings when they discuss Total Communication.

Totally deaf

A person is totally deaf if he/she can hear absolutely nothing. This condition is relatively rare. Some toally deaf persons can benefit from cochlear implants.


Text Telephone. This term is used in some countries, where the sign for it is not too offensive. See: TTY.


As of 1995, this term is accepted as the politically-correct term to denote equipment used by hearing-impaired and speech-impaired to hold phone conversations. This term is short for Teletype.

See also:

See also the TTY FAQ.