The Deaf Community in Rochester, New York


Where is the best place in the United States for a deaf person to live? Many say that Rochester, New York is the most deaf-friendly city in the country and for good reason.

Rochester has one of the largest deaf populations per capita, meaning that out of the total population of Rochester, a substantial percentage are deaf. Rochester is also the birthplace of key or historic elements of the deaf community. Just about every aspect of life in Rochester is deaf-accessible.


Rochester’s Deaf Culture

Rochester has been the birthplace of organizations for deaf and hard-of-hearing artists. The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) hosts The Joseph F. and Helen C. Dyer Arts Center, a showcase for deaf artists. Also at NTID, the traveling theater group Sunshine 2.0 puts on performances for deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults.


Rochester is home since 1968 to NTID, a technical college on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology.

Younger deaf students can attend the Rochester School for the Deaf. Before RSD in the early 1820s, there was a short-lived small school for the deaf. RSD started in 1876 as the Western New York Institution for Deaf-Mutes and became RSD in 1920.

Health Resources

At the Marion B. Folsom Health Center, there are professionals skilled in sign language. The University of Rochester offers the Deaf Health Pathways program for medical students interested in deaf culture, health and American Sign Language.

Sign Language Classes

In a place with such a large deaf population, it is to be expected that sign language classes would be in high demand and easy to find. A few resources for sign language classes in Rochester:

Sign language students in Rochester can interact through a local chapter of ASL Meetup.

Deaf Interpreting Services

Rochester is home to several interpreting services, and also has training and organizations for interpreters:

Interpreting agencies include:

  • FMI Interpreting Services Inc.
  • Interpretek
  • M.E. Services
  • Sign Language Connection
  • Strong Connections (medical interpreting provided by the University of Rochester Medical Center)

Open Captioned Movies

The Regal Henrietta Cinema Stadium cinema shows open captioned movies; at the time this article was written, no theaters in Rochester had the rear window captioning display system. The George Eastman Museum also sometimes shows subtitled films.

Deaf Organizations

For women, there is the Deaf Women of Rochester. Hearing Loss Association of America has a Rochester chapter.


Rochester is home to several churches for the deaf, and many Rochester area churches have deaf ministries:

  • Anchor Christian Church (deaf ministry)
  • Emmanuel Church of the Deaf
  • First Bible Baptist Church (deaf ministry)
  • Victory Baptist Church (deaf ministry)

Deaf Jewish people in Rochester have the Louis S. and Molly B. Wolk Center for Jewish Cultural Enrichment for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Recreation and Sports

Sports and recreational opportunities abound in Rochester. Here is a sampling:

  • Rochester Recreation Club for the Deaf
  • Greater Rochester Deaf Golf Association
  • Deaf Elders Around Rochester (senior citizens who are deaf)
  • Eastern Athletic Association of the Deaf

Social Opportunities

As befits such a large deaf community, social opportunities for the deaf in Rochester are plentiful:

  • Deaf International of Rochester: social gatherings of deaf people from various countries
  • Deaf Professional Happy Hour held monthly
  • Silent Suppers

Social Services

When times are hard or people are abused or just need help with hearing aids or other hearing loss-related concerns, families and deaf people in Rochester have places to turn to, such as:

  • Advocacy Services for Abused Deaf Victims
  • Rochester Hearing and Speech Center
  • Substance and Addiction Intervention Services for the Deaf (at RIT/NTID)
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters has a deaf/hard-of-hearing program

Deaf-Accessible Businesses

Several businesses in Rochester are fully accessible to the deaf (or are deaf-owned).

Media With Real-Time Captioning

Two Rochester area television stations (WHEC, WROC) have real-time captioning of the local news. In addition, NTID has a caption center.

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