Deaf Awareness Week Gone Viral & Wearable #deaffriendly  August 20 2014

 

 

Fashion fiends, this is the week to literally wear your Deaf pride. Breast cancer awareness comes with pink ribbons, and "LIVE STRONG" armbands showcase our dedication to health and fitness. This year, Deaf culture awareness comes with a #deaffriendly tee.

You already know #deaffriendly as a conceptual meme that's making its rounds around the Web. You're starting to see it on Twitter, on Tagboard, and Facebook posts. For Deaf Awareness Week, you'll literally see it paired with jeans.  

An RIT sweatshirt or Gally cap is one way to reinforce your Deaf pride. But only deaf/hh people will make that connection. That's why, to broker a dialogue between hearing people and deaf/hh people, we created a#deaffriendly tee – available in unisex or girly.  

deafREVIEW founder and CEO Melissa "echo" Greenlee discovered while wearing a tee one day while running errands, that #deaffriendly tees work on a subconscious as well as conscious level: People glanced at the hashtag, and visibly self-adjusted their behavior. You could see the gears whirring in their heads, as she described her sartorial experiment, "What does deaf-friendly mean? Am I deaf-friendly? Am I speaking at an appropriate pace? Should I attempt my crude knowledge of the ASL alphabet I learned in school?"

Opening up our Shopify store to get these tee’s in the hands of deaf consumers and allies was the first step. The second, and equally exciting, was commissioning award-winning photographer Meryl Schenker to create a series of viral images. For two afternoons, Schenker, a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer staff photographer, was hard at work in her SODO studio capturing the essence of 12 local Seattle deaf, hard of hearing, or allied models. 

You may recognize Schenker's most viral images: She captured LGBT couples registering for Washington state gay marriage licenses late last year, making her the perfect candidate to immortalize another oft-misunderstood community: Deaf and hard of hearing citizens. We fought for our rights through last year's #captionthis hashtag revolution, and still the battle continues ... by making others more deaf aware.

The photo shoots were inspired in part by LGBT campaigns such as NOH8, the brainchild of co-founder and celebrity photographer Adam Bouska. While searching for models to wear our tees, we found 12 members of the local Seattle Deaf community who, through their lifestyles and attitudes, are ambassadors of deaf-friendliness. 

Each day for seven days, we will showcase one deaf-friendly ambassador. We won't reveal spoilers, but here's a few hints: Two of them are twins. One sits on the board of Deafhood Foundation. Another recently completed the most grueling athletic event known to man.

Hashtags are so deeply ingrained in our tech culture, that the New York Times published a one-word headline last month: "#TwitterIPO." Kanye West has coined the term "hashtag rap." It's short, it's sweet, and it sticks into the consciousness of those with short attention spans. Just like our tee’s and stickers. 

Most hashtags have the half-life of a few days, or weeks, at most. And Deaf Awareness Week lasts exactly that: A week. But #deaffriendly isn't just a hashtag -- it's our lifestyle. And Schenker's images will last more than a lifetime ... here for future generations to remember.

4 ways to promote #deaffriendly this week:

1) Use the #deaffriendly hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram ... and see what others are saying on Tagboard!

2) Like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see our daily campaign images. SHARE and tweet them to spread the message of deaf-friendliness across the globe!  

3) Make a fashion statement: Pair your tee with your favorite jeans (or preppy blazer), take a selfie, and post it on your/our Facebook wall. Be sure you use the hashtag #deaffriendly in your post.

4) Find a cool spot for your #deaffriendly sticker. Is it your car? Your MacBook? Your bike helmet?   

Did your shirt or sticker spark a conversation with a curious stranger or friend? Did it change the behavior of service professionals and businesses you interacted with? Tell us about it! Also SHARE our Shopify link so that your friends and family can also join the #deaffriendly campaign.