(Credit: Alamy)


The dinner table, a symbol of family life and bonding for most hearing people, often represents loneliness and inaccessibility to deaf people. Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, and the majority of those families – some put the number at 75%-90% – don’t learn a signed language to communicate with their child. Dinner Table Syndrome describes the phenomenon in which “deaf people are left out of conversations,” says Dr. Leah Geer Zarchy, a deaf associate professor of American Sign Language (ASL) and deaf studies at California State University, Sacramento. “If something is funny and everyone erupts in laughter, the deaf person will ask the closest person and ask what was so funny. Too often, they’re told, ‘Oh, it was nothing’ or ‘I’ll tell you later,’ which is just what our colleague reported in her presentation.