By coincidence, “vice president of romance” Trish Mc Dermott formerly worked as an American Sign Language interpreter, making her well-versed in the issues surrounding deaf culture. 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.
Full-text search was recently added to the service, making it easy to find anyone who mentions “deaf” or “American Sign Language” in their personal ad.
She likes the niche sites, citing the difficulty for single deaf people to find each other.
She considered trying the larger dating sites after her divorce, Berke said, but decided they wouldn’t work for her.
Web site developer Christiaan Marais wasn’t considering a new career when he started “He was trying to get back into the dating scene,” Marais said.
“We were talking about online dating, and I said, ‘You should try one of these sites.’ ” His father was reluctant, Marais said, because it’s hard to find other deaf users on the larger dating sites.
“The upside of dating services is you don’t need to join to look around.
“It’s better to think of sign language users as you would think of a language minority rather than a disability group,” Pollard said.“The Net just allows them a different way of communicating.” 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 number of people fluent in American Sign 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.And the need to connect goes beyond shared experiences, said Pollard, of the University of Rochester.Those who communicate with American Sign Language are quite literally using a different language, one that is as distinct from English as French.