Deaf history

The history of deaf people and deaf culture make up deaf history. The Deaf culture is a culture that is centered on sign language and relationships among one another. Unlike other cultures the Deaf culture is not associated with any native land as it is a global culture. By some, deafness may be viewed as a disability, but the Deaf world sees itself as a language minority. Throughout the years many accomplishments have been achieved by deaf people. To name the most famous, Ludwig van Beethoven and Thomas Alva Edison were both deaf and contributed great works to culture.

Deaf people who know Sign Language are proud of their history. In the United States, they recount the story of Laurent Clerc, a Deaf educator, and Thomas H. Gallaudet, an American educator, coming to the United States from France in 1816 to help found the first permanent school for deaf children in the country. In the late 1850s there was a debate about whether or not to create a separate deaf state in the west. This deaf state would be a place where all deaf people could migrate, if chosen to, and prosper; however, this plan failed and the whole debate died.[1]

Another well-known event is the 1880 Second International Congress on Education of the Deaf in Milan, Italy, where hearing educators voted to embrace oral education and remove sign language from the classroom. This effort resulted in strong opposition within Deaf cultures today to the oralist method of teaching deaf children to speak and lip read with limited or no use of sign language in the classroom. The method is intended to make it easier for deaf children to integrate into hearing communities, but there have been many arguments about whether the manual method (where the teachers teach Sign Language as the main way to communicate) or the Oral method (where the teachers make the student learn to speak) are better. Most people now agree that the Manual Method is the preferred method of Deaf communication. The use of sign language is central to the Deaf peoples as a cultural identity and attempts to limit its use are viewed as an attack.[2]

Bond history of the deaf cultureEdit

Sign language is the most important instrument for communication between deaf people and the Deaf culture. Using sign language deaf people can join social networks, local and globally, which join the Deaf culture together. Sign Language is a loose term for people that are deaf or hard of hearing and use signs to communicate. American Sign Language (ASL) is most closely related to the older form of French Sign Language, as Laurent Clerc, who was deaf and a teacher, was brought to the America's by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Though Clerc brought French Sign Language, there was already sign language being used. Martha's Vineyard had more than average deaf people who had created their own Martha's Vineyard Sign Language. The French Sign Language and the Sign Language that was already in use, became American Sign Language. Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities are closely drawn together due to their culture and use of Sign Language. Sign languages, like the English language, are always changing. In the United States there are many varieties of Sign Language - from SEE sign (Signed Exact English), which follows English grammar rules when using modified ASL signs, to the Rochester Method, where every single word is finger spelled out in the English Language, generally without the use of signs. There is a grey area in between 'English' and 'ASL' known as Contact Variety (previously referred to as Pidgin Sign Language, or PSE), which uses any number of combinations of English word order/grammar combined with aspects of ASL (or SEE).

Another powerful bonding forced in the Deaf culture is athletics. Athletics open up a path to achievement where many others are shut out by prejudice due to the level playing field of certain sports. Athletics also create many networking opportunities for Deaf people across the United States to expand their social circles, due to the increased mobility that results from out-of-state competitions, because the deaf population is considerably small at the local scale.[3] Deaf people participate in athletic activities to cultivate their cultural identity as Deaf people. In athletics, they can find solidarity where they are able to comfortably communicate with one another without barriers, embrace values and social norms natural for them and distinct from those in the hearing community, and allow for Deaf people to participate as coaches, athletes, and participants.[4] The American Athletic Association of the Deaf (AAAD) is huge help for deaf people by representing Deaf clubs and organizations throughout the entire American states.[5] The impact of sports in the deaf community can also be seen on the international level. The Deaflympics, sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, are an elite international sporting event where deaf athletes from across the world compete against each other quadrennially.[6]

Famous living Deaf peopleEdit


  • 1000 B.C.: Hebrew Law denied deaf rights. The Torah protected the deaf from being cursed by others, but did not allow them to participate fully in the rituals of the Temple. Special laws concerning marriage and property were established for deaf-mutes, but deaf-mutes were not allowed to be witnesses in the courts.[7][8]
  • c. 364 B.C.: Aristotle asserted that the "Deaf are born incapable to reason".[9]
  • c. 360 B.C.: Socrates, as quoted by Plato in Cratylus, mentioned the deaf who express themselves in gestures movement, depicting that which is light or a higher sphere by raising the hands or describing a galloping horse by imitating its motion.[10]
  • c. 44 B.C.: Quintus Pedius is the earliest deaf person in recorded history known by name.[11][12]
  • 135 A.D.: Saint Ovidius died; he is the patron saint of curing auditory disease.[13]
  • 131: Galen, a Greek physician from Pergamon wrote "Speech and hearing share the same source in the brain…"[14]
  • 738: In the Justinian Code, Emperor Justinian deduced that being deaf and mute are two different traits and are not always together.[15][16]
B, C, D. Engravings by Diego de Astor of Reducción de las letras y arte para enseñar a hablar a los mudos (Bonet, 1620)
  1. UPS failed to address communication barriers and to ensure equal conditions and opportunities for deaf employees;
  2. Deaf employees were routinely excluded from workplace information, denied opportunities for promotion, and exposed to unsafe conditions due to lack of accommodations by UPS;
  3. UPS also lacked a system to alert these employees as to emergencies, such as fires or chemical spills, to ensure that they would safely evacuate their facility; and
  4. UPS had no policy to ensure that deaf applicants and employees actually received effective communication in the workplace.

The outcome was that UPS agreed to pay a $5.8 million award and agreed to a comprehensive accommodations program that was implemented in their facilities throughout the country.

  • 2005: India's National Association of the Deaf began.[72][73]
  • 2006: The Unity for Gallaudet movement occurred at Gallaudet University.[74]
  • 2006: In 2006 the American Library Association and the National Association of the Deaf declared that they would recognize March 13 to April 15 as National Deaf History Month.[75][46]
  • 2008: Darby Leigh became the first deaf rabbi ordained by the Reconstructionist movement.[76]
  • 2008: Lance Allred became the first deaf player in the NBA.[77][78]
  • 2010: In July 2010 in Vancouver, Canada, the board of the 21st International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) formally voted to reject all of the 1880 Milan resolutions.[79]
  • 2011: This year the Conservative Movement unanimously passed the rabbinic responsa, "The Status of the Heresh [one who is deaf] and of Sign Language," by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS).[80] This responsa declared that, among other things, "The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards rules that the deaf who communicate via sign language and do not speak are no longer to be considered mentally incapacitated. Jews who are deaf are responsible for observing mitzvot. Our communities, synagogues, schools, and camps must strive to be welcoming and accessible, and inclusive. Sign language may be used in matters of personal status and may be used in rituals. A deaf person called to the Torah who does not speak may recite the berakhot via sign language. A deaf person may serve as a shaliah tzibbur in sign language in a minyan whose medium of communication is sign language.[81]
  • 2011: Mary Whittaker became the first deaf person to be ordained into the Church of Scotland.[82]
  • 2012: The Supreme Court of India declared that a deaf and mute person need not be prevented from being presented as a witness in court merely on account of their physical disability. The court explained that a deaf and mute person can testify in writing or through gestures.[83][84]
  • 2012: It was announced that Netflix would offer closed captions on all TV and movie content from September 2014 as part of a settlement with a deaf viewer from Massachusetts (Lee Nettles) who sued the company.[85] In 2012, a federal judge in Springfield, Massachusetts ruled in that lawsuit that Netflix and other online providers that serve the public are subject to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, the first ruling in the country to recognize that Internet-based businesses are covered by the act.[85][86]
  • 2014: In 2014, the National Association of the Deaf filed a complaint with the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division alleging that thousands of lectures and other course content that had been made freely available via YouTube and iTunes by the University of California, Berkeley violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 because numerous lectures in the university's Massive open online course program featured automatically generated captions, which contained inaccuracies. In 2016, the Department of Justice concluded that the content would violate the ADA unless it was updated to conform to the current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.[87] In response, a university spokesperson stated that the costs of "captioning alone would exceed a million dollars" and that the university would comply with the DOJ order by removing all of the content from public access.[88]
  • 2015: In Pierce v. District of Columbia (2015), Ketanji Brown Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the D.C. Department of Corrections violated the rights of a deaf inmate under the Americans with Disabilities Act because jail officials failed to provide the inmate with reasonable accommodations, or to assess his need for reasonable accommodations, during his detention in 2012. Jackson held that "the District's willful blindness regarding" Pierce's need for accommodation and its half-hearted attempt to provide Pierce with a random assortment of auxiliary aids—and only after he specifically requested them—fell far short of what the law requires."[89]
  • 2022: CODA became the first film featuring predominantly deaf actors in leading roles to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.[90]
  • 2022: Troy Kotsur became the first deaf man to win an Academy Award for acting; he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in CODA.[91]

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Fischer, Renate. Looking back: A reader on the history of deaf communities and their sign languages (Gallaudet University Press, 1993).
  • Greenwald, Brian H.. and Joseph J. Murray, eds. In Our Own Hands: Essays in Deaf History, 1780–1970 (Washington: Gallaudet University Press, 2016). xviii, 270 pp.
  • van Cleve, J., ed. Deaf history unveiled: Interpretations from the new scholarship (Gallaudet University Press, 1993)


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