Toronto’s Deaf Community
As a person of hearing, it can be difficult to fully imagine life otherwise. We can try to picture the life of someone who loses the ability or was born without it, but ultimately the experience remains foreign. Deaf people have a vibrant and lively culture full of richness and complexity. In a large metropolitan city, it is crucial to be able to find support from likeminded individuals. Toronto has two places with that particular purpose in mind for those in the deaf community. The Deaf Culture Centre and the Rumball Foundation keep their doors open for everyone. These are wonderful centres for the deaf and hard of hearing, but they also offer very educational and enlightening experience for us all.
Reverend Bob Rumball spent decades of his life advocating for the deaf community. His dream of creating a multipurpose centre for them came true in the 1970s when he acquired the property that later became the Rumball Foundation located at 2395 Bayview Avenue. The centre provides a residential program, childcare services, translation help, job counselling, and more.
Classes in American Sign Language and adult immersion programs are open for all people at the Rumball Foundation. The instructors are part of the deaf community and the classes are a truly unique experience, in which no talking is allowed. Participants learn the vocabulary and grammar of ASL, but also cultural aspects of the community. For example, physical touch is considered a normal way of getting someone’s attention, despite it being seen as inappropriate for many people of hearing.
In the Distillery District, at 15 Mill Street, you can find the Deaf Culture Centre. You will find an art gallery, museum, gift shop, archives, and more in a silent facility. It is also open to both deaf and hearing people as a centre where they can comfortably share the space. Classes include glass painting and drawing, while there are also dining events that simultaneously encourage and teach the use of ASL. The centre is free to visit, and is the perfect option for those in the deaf community downtown looking for a centre to make friends and learn more about the culture.
Many deaf Torontonians utilize both centres for volunteer and job opportunities, both at these centres and through the job counselling services provided. This is invaluable for many people who grew up in smaller communities with reduced barriers for the deaf and hard of hearing. The transition to a city that takes the ability for granted can be devastatingly jarring.
These are people from a variety of backgrounds, with different identities and abilities. Spaces like the two aforementioned ones give them a chance to gain comfort, experience, and friendships. It allows them to build their confidence and find the best ways they can contribute to the broader community. The deaf and hard of hearing have unique experiences, and through their work as interpreters, artists, and more, they are an invaluable part of society.
Deaf Culture Centre. http://www.deafculturecentre.ca/Public/index.aspx
Renzetti, Elizabeth. Bob Rumball was a fierce advocate for Ontario’s deaf community. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/bob-rumball-was-a-fierce-advocate-for-ontarios-deaf-community/article30479169/
Rumball Foundation for the Deaf. http://www2.bobrumball.org/
Sage, Willow. What It’s Like to Navigate a Hearing-Dominant Society. Torontoist. http://torontoist.com/2016/11/what-its-like-to-navigate-a-hearing-dominant-society/