Deaf Awareness Month: Celebrating the History of the Deaf Community

Deaf Awareness

September is well-known as the beginning of autumn and the arrival of everything pumpkin! But, did you know that it’s also Deaf Awareness Month

As such, it’s a great time to talk about resources for the Deaf, how to effectively advocate for Deaf people, and where to go from here. But first, let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at some of the important events in history for the Deaf community.

April 15, 1817: Opening of the First Public School for the Deaf

Prior to this, Deaf students in the public school system often faced challenges because teaching in the classroom was done orally. Sign language was not widely used for educational purposes so Deaf students could easily miss out on what was being taught. 

With the opening of the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, CT, however, a new world opened up for the Deaf community. And, American Sign Language (ASL) was born, providing a standardized language to connect Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing individuals.

September 1880: Second International Congress on Education of the Deaf

Held in Milan, Italy, this event was an international conference in which educators of the Deaf discussed whether oral or manual education was better. Even though sign language existed, it wasn’t widely accepted in classrooms around the globe. And, at this conference, educators voted in favor of oral education, meaning that sign language was officially banned in schools. This setback led to a decrease in the quality of education for Deaf people throughout the world.

1970’s: The Civil Rights Era and Improved Rights for the Deaf

Sadly, it wasn’t until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1970’s that sign language began to make a comeback. In the decade prior, research by an English scholar named William Stokoe revealed that sign language was indeed a fully formed language and a valuable educational tool for Deaf people.

Celebrating Deaf Awareness Month Today

Rights and resources for Deaf people have increased in the decades since the 1970’s. Perhaps the accomplishments of some famous Deaf people have opened the world’s eyes to what can and should be done for Deaf equality, but there’s still room to grow.

Deaf Awareness Month can help hearing individuals better understand the challenges faced by the Deaf community. And, when we all work together, respect each other, and advocate for each other’s rights, everyone benefits. 

Today, we celebrate Deaf Awareness Month by acknowledging the mistakes of the past, cherishing those who have forged a new path, and honoring extraordinary and resilient people who have not allowed deafness to hold them back. If you or a loved one is part of the Deaf community, contact us today to see how we can help advocate for the resources and services you need and deserve.

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