As the Olathe candidate knocked on a voter’s door, a dog inside barked and the sound of footsteps approached. The candidate didn’t look up. He’s deaf. The door opened. The homeowner started to say hello but trailed off as the candidate gestured to his ear and smiled. He pointed to his shirt — “Haulmark for Kansas” — and held up a pamphlet advertising his campaign. The homeowner nodded, tilting his head slightly, and looked on. There have been deaf city counselors and a deaf mayor, but Chris Haulmark, if elected, would be the first deaf legislator — at the state or national level — in U.S. history, according to the National Association of the Deaf. “It will be the very first time in America’s history that finally a deaf person has been invited to the table to sit with the other politicians, legislators and lawmakers and be able to make decisions together,” Haulmark, 39, said recently at an event commemorating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He prefers the term “deafhood” to “deafness,” he said. Deafhood was coined by author Paddy Ladd in his book “Understanding Deaf Culture.” It’s aimed at expanding one’s understanding of being a deaf person beyond just suffering a lack of hearing. It’s supposed to suggest a process through which people who are deaf understand the world in a different — often more visual — way than hearing people, but not a lesser way.
“Being deaf is not about the hearing loss to me,” Haulmark said. “It is about me using a second language.”
Haulmark became deaf at age 1 from spinal meningitis, he said in an interview using an interpreter, and he became a Democrat after seeing the importance of the government support he received.