The Center for Democracy in Deaf America

CDDA is a non-partisan organization at Gallaudet University committed to developing healthy democratic skills and habits of deaf individuals by fostering disagreement, debate, and civic engagement through American Sign Language and English.

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Our Vision

A Deaf America in which deaf and hard of hearing people have the knowledge, skills, values, access, and motivation to:

  • Engage in critical self-reflection
  • Respect and appreciate differences
  • Hold each other accountable to create inclusive environments where everybody can participate in difficult converstations.
  • Practice active listening to diverse experiences, perspectives, and beliefs
  • Critique and articulate complex opinions, values, issues and beliefs persuasively.
  • Build networks with individuals and associations inside and outside the Deaf community.
  • Work to make a positive difference in communities and American democracy

CDDA Goals

To create inclusive and accessible environments in which every deaf person engages in critical reflection and participates in difficult conversations across differences in ASL.

“A world of open-minded deaf people who welcome discomfort and seek growth by interacting with people with different opinions, perspectives, identities, and experiences.

Infuse Gallaudet and K-12 Deaf 
Education with curricular material that promote open-mindedness, humility, and constructive disagreement.

Curate talks, discussions and events in ASL that inspire self-reflection, connection across differences, curiosity, open-mindedness, intellectual and moral humility, and/or disagreement.

To enliven critical thinking, intellectual humility, reasoned analysis, decorum, and rhetoric in the Deaf community through access to competitive debate in ASL

A more tolerant, engaged, and perceptive Deaf community in which deaf and hard of hearing individuals become more knowledgeable and persuasive.


Share available tools, resources, which teachers, professors, administrators, and community organizers can deploy to host and promote debate.

Provide hands-on opportunities for the Deaf community to both watch and participate in competitive debate.

Curate and make debates accessible in ASL about important issues of the day.

Support debate societies and teams at all programs, schools, and universities for the deaf participating in regional and national competitions.

To inspire deaf and hard of hearing people to make a difference on local and national levels by developing the combination of civic
knowledge, skills, cohesion, and motivation through ASL to make that difference through political and non-political processes

A future where deaf and hard of hearing people, and their schools, programs, workplaces, and communities volunteer, vote, serve, and network with individuals and organizations inside and outside the Deaf community to promote the quality of democracy

Civic Duty:

Secure and recognize commitments from educational, university, and community leaders with affirmed best civic engagement practices.

Register deaf and hard of hearing voters for the 2020 election and get them out to vote.

Send deaf students to intern at Democratic and Republican National Conventions and on the Hill.

Civic Cohesion: 
Work with individuals, associations, and communities to overcome division, build networks, and to foster social capital.

Build coalitions with high-visibility, high-impact organizations in the Deaf community.

Build cross-cutting coalitions and partnerships with “hearing” and disability organizations.

Civic Skills: 
Host and facilitate events that promote critical thinking and knowledge about American political system.

Create and disseminate fun and educational materials that discuss current events, principles of democracy, the system of American government, and rights.

Civic Action:
Organize and promote volunteerism and service to local and national associations.

Encourage service-learning requirement that foster civic responsibility and civic engagement.

Debate with US

Nykol Pratt


Catalina Romera

Riverside, CA
Social Work

Romel Thurman

Bay Area, CA
Physical Edu. & Rec.

Lexi Hill

Tyler, TX
History & Gov.

Jocelyn Saravia

Richmond, VA
Art & Media Design

Claudia Smistek

Buffalo, NY

Aubrey Moorman

Laurel, MD

Dahlia Hernandez

Oswego, IL

Julie Shoeman

Charles Town, WV
Social Work & Gov.

Nthabeleng McDonald

Albuquerque, NM


Democracy in Deaf America

Gallaudet University

Furthers the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf people in a rapidly changing world by building social capital, conflict resolution, critical thinking, and rhetorical skills.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Supports inclusive excellence by fostering active listening, critical self-reflection, and advocacy

Deaf Gain

Illustrates the value of deaf people and deaf education to humanity by capitalizing on diversity and networks inherent in deaf communities to foster healthy skills and habits vital to American democracy.

“In this turbulent and dynamic century, our nation’s diverse democracy and interdependent global community require a more informed, engaged, and socially responsible citizenry. Both educators and employers agree that personal and social responsibility should be core elements of a 21st century college education if our world is to thrive.”
– Association of American Colleges and Universities



Brendan Stern

Executive Director and Director of Debate

Lorenzo Lewis

Director of Disagreement

Kate Breen

Director of Civic Engagment

Kendell Bisson-Davis

Director of Communications

Additional Resources

Sign Vote


Civic Health Project

Citizen University Programs

Contact CDDA