The Deaf Community in Rochester, New York

teacher with deaf students

Brian Mitchell / Getty Images

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 U.S. 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 such as the Deaf Artists of America (now defunct), the theater group Lights On, and Deaf Life magazine (now apparently defunct). NTID hosts The Joseph F. and Helen C. Dyer Arts Center, a showcase for deaf artists.


Rochester is home since 1968 to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a technical college on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology. Younger deaf students have the choice of 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 1919) or mainstreaming with support services provided by the Monroe County Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Health Resources

At the Marion B. Folsom Medical Center, there are professionals skilled in sign language. The University of Rochester hosts PAH MD, Promoting Awareness in Healthcare, Medical, and Deaf, a discussion list.

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:

  • ASL at the University of Rochester
  • Rochester School for the Deaf
  • Monroe County Adult Education

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:

  • The National Technical Institute for the Deaf has an interpreting program.
  • The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf has a local chapter, the Genessee Valley Region Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.
  • 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 House International Museum of Photography and Film also sometimes shows subtitled films.

Deaf Organizations

Rochester is in Monroe County, which has the Monroe County Association for Hearing Impaired People. 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:

  • Alpha Lutheran Church of the Deaf
  • Anchor Christian Church (deaf ministry)
  • Emmanuel Church of the Deaf
  • First Bible Baptist Church (deaf ministry)
  • Genessee Park SDA Church (deaf pastor)
  • Liberty Baptist Church of the Deaf
  • 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 Golfers Association
  • Lilac Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf for deaf lesbigays in Rochester
  • Deaf Elders Around Rochester (senior citizens who are deaf)
  • Eastern Athletic Association of the Deaf
  • Rochester Rascals Deaf Softball Organization

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
  • Deaf Coffee Nights (GRRAD)
  • 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 Alcohol Intervention Services for the Deaf (at RIT/NTID)
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters has a deaf/hoh program

Deaf-Accessible Businesses

Several businesses in Rochester are fully accessible to the deaf (or are deaf-owned). At least one real estate agent, Parker Zack, advertises his sign language skills.

Media With Real-Time Captioning

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

Was this page helpful?