In 1997 the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) introduced National Deaf History Month running from March 13-April 15th. It centered around 3 key dates in history: April 15, 1817 when the first public school for the deaf, now called the American School for the Deaf, was opened; April 8, 1864 when Gallaudet University was founded as the first institution in the world dedicated to advanced education for the deaf and hard of hearing; and March 13, 1988 when the Deaf President Now movement culminated in Gallaudet’s hiring of the first deaf president. In 2022, the NAD Board announced that they had chosen April 1-30 as National Deaf History Month in response to feedback from the NAD Deaf Culture and History Section and various stakeholders within the Deaf Community.
Regardless of the dates, the intention is the same, to support the deaf community, celebrate achievements of deaf individuals, and raise awareness of Deaf culture. Despite the fact that the Hearing Loss Association reports approximately 2-3 of every 1,000 children are born with a detectable hearing loss in one or both ears, deaf persons still struggle to achieve equitable access to education, healthcare, employment and beyond. Overcoming these obstacles, there have been some famous deaf people who have risen to acclaim including Beethoven, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, Marlee Matlin, Halle Berry, Rob Lowe, and more. This supports the general view of the Deaf community that deafness is not a disability or disease but is instead a difference in the human experience.
Let’s all use this opportunity to learn a little bit of sign language so that we can create a more inclusive community.