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Watch live: Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony. At first glance, it may seem like just another set of niche online dating sites. After all, Catholics and Jews have them. Swingers have them. Even Ivy League graduates have them. And now, deaf people have them. There's nothing new about the Internet being a connection tool for geographically disconnected niches. But the recent explosion of online dating — about 17 million people at least peeked at a dating site last year, according to estimates — has created a cottage industry of smaller sites hoping to draft off the success of market monster Match.
Two small but growing sites devoted to dating for the deaf, both founded by children of deaf parents, now offer non-hearing singles their Dating in the deaf community place on the Internet to find love. He was thinking about his divorced father. Why not have there be a place where I know that every person in here is at least deaf, hard-of-hearing, or can hear but has a vested interest in the deaf community.
Currently, Deafdates. Already, he said, three couples credit DeafMatchInternational with their weddings. And every day, Haines said, he gets e-mail from happy users who have made new connections thanks to his site. Online dating is a natural fit for the deaf, he said. Estimates of the size of the deaf community vary wildly — both Haines and Marais say there are between 20 and 25 million people in the United States who face some kind of hearing loss.
The of people fluent in American Language is much smaller, however, fewer than 1 million people nationwide, according to Robert Pollard, director of the Deaf Wellness Center at the University of Rochester. Haines said members of his site include the completely deaf, aging singles who are losing their hearing — even language interpreters who can hear but are looking for relationships with people immersed in deaf culture. Perhaps of his users can hear, he said. But deaf-hearing relationships are apparently the exception rather than the rule, according to anecdotal evidence.
Demographic statistics on the deaf community are hard to come by; the deaf cannot easily respond to random telephone polls and they are not identified in census data. Jamie Berke, who runs the About. She likes the niche sites, Dating in the deaf community the difficulty for single deaf people to find each other. Despite the challenges of using a larger dating site, many deaf folks are doing it anyway. By coincidence, Match. She said her site does all it can to be inclusive.
While there is no selection criteria where users can identify themselves as deaf, members can mention a desire for deaf partners in their personal description. McDermott said she had no way to know how many personals had been placed by deaf people on Match. And the need to connect goes beyond shared experiences, said Pollard, of the University of Rochester.
Those who communicate with American Language are quite literally using a different language, one that is as distinct from English as French. And with that distinct language comes a distinct culture. So, just as members of any non-English speaking minority group are drawn together, so are deaf people. The language barrier is even more of a challenge for the deaf than for members of other language minorities, who usually share their language with family members, and often live in neighborhoods where others speak their language.
In contrast, nearly 95 percent of all deaf children are born to hearing parents; generally, it takes effort for language people to find each other. This quest to find other American Language speakers makes deaf culture tight-knit, giving it a sense of community that is likely deeper than other disability groups, Pollard said.
It also makes the group particularly well-suited for its own dating Web sites. Is text limiting? Pollard noted a limitation in DeafDate. Sites which allow video conferencing might have much better luck, he said, because they would allow American Language users to converse in their primary language. Still, Burke, for one, likes the idea of deaf dating sites precisely because of the focus on text.
Many deaf people are as familiar with typing as talking, she said. IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser. Olympics Politics U. Share this —. Follow NBC News. Bob Sullivan.Dating in the deaf community
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