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Deaf History Month - Fun Facts

Hearing aidNational Deaf History Month is celebrated from March 13 through April 15 to recognize the contributions of deaf and hard of hearing people. 

Following are three important dates in deaf history:

April 15, 1817: The first permanent public school for the deaf, the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Conn., opened.

April 8, 1864: President Abraham Lincoln signed the charter of Gallaudet University in Washington, the first school for the advanced education of the deaf and hard of hearing in the world.

March 13, 1988: The Deaf President Now movement succeeded in having I. King Jordan named the first deaf president of Gallaudet University. Dr. Jordan became known as a symbol of self-determination and empowerment for deaf and hard of hearing people around the world.

Assistive Technology 

Technology has given deaf and hard of hearing people the ability to hear, has enabled them to use the telephone system and has made video programming accessible.

Its inventor, Robert Weitbrecht, made the first long-distance call using the telephone typewriter or TTY in 1964.

The first attempt to use electricity to aid hearing was in 1790, and the first electrical hearing aid was invented in 1892. In 1995, Cochlear Implants were  approved for people 18 and older.

The history of closed captions began with open captioning on the French Chef in 1972, which aired on PBS. Closed captioning became available but extremely limited in the early '80s. The Telecom Act of 1996 mandated closed captioning, which is now widely available for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Sign Language 

Sign language is the fourth most popular language in the world.

Sign language varies from country to country. Most of the countries have their own sign language or share a certain sign language but, with a different dialect.

In the American Sign Language (ASL), the alphabets can be demonstrated using one hand. However, in German and British Sign Languages, two hands are used.

In the 19th century, people living on Martha's Vineyard were as likely to be deaf as hearing. There were so many deaf people on the Vineyard, especially in the town of Chilmark, that residents developed a sign language called Martha's Vineyard Sign Language or Chilmark Sign Language. People moving to Chilmark had to learn sign language in order to live in the community.

Famous Deaf People

Jane Lynch – Famous actress known for her starring role on the hit TV series “Glee.” She is deaf in one ear.

Rob Lowe – American actor, completely deaf in right ear.

Holly Hunter – American actress who starred in ”The Piano,” for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Hunter is profoundly deaf in one ear from a bout with mumps during childhood.

Stephen Colbert – An American comedian, actor, author, and host of the “Late Show.” He is deaf in his right ear.

Ludwig van Beethoven – Was completely deaf for the last part of his life and produced some of the greatest music of all time.

Juliette Gordon Low - a late deafened woman founded the Girl Scouts of America in Savannah, Georgia. 

Marlee Matlin – The famous deaf actress who won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her debut role in Children of a Lesser God at the age of twenty-one.

William “Dummy” Hoy. Dummy Hoy was the first deaf major league baseball player. He hit the first grand-slam home run in the American league, and created the hand signals that are still used in baseball today.

Paul Hubbard - At Gallaudet, a college for deaf persons, Hubbard played quarterback on its first football team in the 1890s. Since the players were deaf, Hubbard devised the huddle system for calling plays so the players could keep their ASL signing hidden from the opposing team. 

Derrick Coleman – Legally deaf by the age of 3, he became the first deaf offensive player in the NFL and played for the Seattle Seahawks, including in the XVLIII Super Bowl.