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Celebrating Deaf History Month: 11 Deaf People Who Have Made History

deaf awareness Apr 06, 2024
Deaf History Month
Deaf History Month, observed the full of month of April, is a time to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and accomplishments of the Deaf community. This month-long observance highlights the struggles, triumphs, and contributions of deaf individuals throughout history. It is a time to reflect on the progress made in promoting deaf culture and accessibility while also recognizing the ongoing challenges that the Deaf community faces.


Origins of Deaf History Month


Deaf History Month originated as a way to commemorate two significant milestones in deaf history: the establishment of the first permanent school for the deaf in America and the founding of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). The first permanent school for the deaf, now known as the American School for the Deaf, was founded in Hartford, Connecticut, on April 15, 1817. This event marked a pivotal moment in the education and empowerment of deaf individuals in the United States. Additionally, the NAD, founded in 1880, has been a leading advocate for the rights and inclusion of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.


The Importance of Deaf History


Deaf history is an integral part of American history and even American culture, yet it is often overlooked or marginalized. By dedicating a month to honor deaf history, we can raise awareness about the rich heritage of the Deaf community, honor contributions to society, and promote a deeper understanding of deaf culture, language, and identity.



11 Deaf People Who Have Made History


Vince Cerf - Creator of the first commercial email service to be connected to the Internet. He invented his first computer based texting system to communicate with his deaf wife. He is called one of the “fathers of the Internet."

Thomas Edison -Thomas Edison was totally deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other. He went on to become one of the greatest inventors in history, with notable inventions such as the phonograph and the electric light bulb.

Helen Keller - A renowned author, political activist, and lecturer, Helen Keller overcame deaf-blindness to become a leading advocate for people with disabilities and a symbol of perseverance and determination.

Juliette Gordon Low - Founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA, Juliette Gordon Low was deaf in one ear due to a childhood accident. She dedicated her life to empowering young girls and promoting leadership skills.

Marlee Matlin - An Academy Award-winning actress, Marlee Matlin is the first deaf performer to have won an Oscar for her role in "Children of a Lesser God." She is also an advocate for deaf rights and representation in the entertainment industry.

William "Dummy" Hoy - A professional baseball player in the late 19th century, William Hoy was deaf and is credited with introducing hand signals for balls and strikes, revolutionizing umpiring in baseball.

Eliza Grace Symods Bell - Alexander Graham Bell's mother, who was deaf, influenced his work on inventing the telephone and other communication devices that are still used today.

Dr. Robert H. Weitbrecht - Deaf since childhood, Dr. Weitbrecht invented the teletypewriter (TTY) device, also known as the telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD). This technology revolutionized communication for the deaf community, allowing them to communicate over telephone lines via text.  This technology is considered the first text messaging system!

William "Peahead" Walker - the head football coach at Gallaudet University who introduced the huddle during a game against Brown University in 1892. The Huddle continues to be a mainstay in football today.

Laurent Clerc -  a French educator and co-founder of the first permanent school for the deaf in America, the American School for the Deaf. He played a crucial role in the development of American Sign Language and deaf education in the United States.

Malala Yousafzai - a Pakistani activist and advocate for girls' education who gained international prominence after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012 which destroyed her hearing in her left ear. Malala has a cochlear implant. She became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate in 2014 for her activism related to education and equal rights. Malala continues to inspire and empower millions around the world through her advocacy work and education initiatives.


These individuals broke barriers, shattered stereotypes, and paved the way for greater inclusion and opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing people in various fields.


Looking Towards the Future

As we celebrate Deaf History Month, we must look towards the future and continue advocating for the rights and well-being of the Deaf community and deaf and hard of hearing individuals. This includes promoting educational opportunities, employment equity, and cultural recognition. By embracing diversity and fostering inclusivity, we can create a more equitable society for all.

In conclusion, Deaf History Month serves as a reminder of the resilience, creativity, and contributions of the Deaf community. It is a time to honor the past, celebrate the present, and work towards a brighter future where deaf individuals can thrive and fully participate in society.


Would you like lessons for Deaf History month?  Check out Deaf Identity activities through The Online Itinerant!  These activities are in the Teaching Toolbox and are included in Professional Academy and Friend Academy.  CLICK HERE to learn more!


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