Celebrating Deaf History Month

Did you know it’s National Deaf History Month? 

First started in 1997, this annual recognition runs from March 13 through April 15th.

This week, we’ll be talking about National Deaf History Month, what it recognizes, and sharing a few stories of some people whose lives demonstrate the power of perseverance in spite of any disabilities.

What is National Deaf History Month?

National Deaf History Month is a recognition and celebration of the history of deaf advocation and education. 

It kicks off March 13, on the same day that Gallaudet University selected its first Deaf President in 1988, and runs through April 15th which marks the anniversary of the founding of the first public school for the deaf.

In 2006, the American Library Association partnered with NAD by helping promote and spread awareness of this recognition.

What does National Deaf History Month Recognize?

The reason the dates run across two different months is that this time period covers three major historical events in the history of deaf awareness and education.

These dates include:

  • On April 15th, 1817, the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, CT opens its doors. It was both the first permanent public school for the deaf and the first school for children with disabilities located in the western hemisphere.
  • April 8th, 1864 marks the date that Gallaudet University was founded with Edward M. Gallaudet serving as its first principal. This Washington DC school first functioned as a primary school for deaf and blind students, Gallaudet is still the only college or university-level program designed specifically for deaf and hard of hearing students.
  • March 13th, 1988 is the anniversary of the success of the “Deaf President Now” protest. Responding to protests by students and staff, Gallaudet University hires its first deaf president, Irving King Jordan. Jordan served as president until 2006 when he was succeeded by Dr. Robert Davila.

“Each of these seminal events,” NAD noted in a 2012 statement, “Represents significant advancements for deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States.”

Stories from the Deaf, Deaf-blind, and Hard of Hearing Community

There are 432 million people in the world who are deaf or hard of hearing. Here are some stories of people who overcame their disabilities to change the world.

  • Linda Bove - If you watched Sesame Street sometime between 1972 and 2002, you might remember Linda the Librarian. Bove’s tenure on Sesame Street makes her the longest-running deaf character also played by a deaf performer.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven - Beethoven famously lost his hearing in his late thirties and spent the rest of his life being unable to converse without passing notes back and forth. 
  • Thomas Edison - This famous American businessman, inventor, and entrepreneur was completely deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other. He viewed it as a blessing for his work as it kept his conversations short and blocked out the world around him.
  • Lou Ferrigno - The Incredible Hulk suffered 80% hearing loss before he was three years old. He has since had access to better hearing through a cochlear implant.
  • Teresa de Cartagena - This fifteenth-century deaf writer defied all the odds by not only being a woman in a highly patriarchal society but also struggling with being completely deaf in a world that equated deafness with mental disability. She wrote extensively about gender equality and equal rights through the lens of Christianity.
  • Leslie Nielson - Don’t call him Shirley, this famous actor was legally deaf due to sensorineural hearing loss and wore hearing aids for much of his life.

Conclusion

Beyond Deaf History Month, the National Association for the Deaf is focused on their core missions of equity in deaf education, advocacy for deaf seniors, as well as anti-racism within the within groups that serve deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing communities

For more information about National Deaf History month and other ways to support the deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing communities, visit the National Association of the Deaf website.

 

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