There were deaf people throughout the history of mankind. Their deafness not only prevented them from living a normal life; it also made them a subject of discrimination. The deaf community has struggled for centuries to assimilate into society, and through the efforts of many important people throughout history, they are now able to avail of many opportunities that were previously only accessible to hearing people. Here is an account of major events that shaped deaf culture around the world:
The society showed overt discrimination against the deaf as early as 1,000 BC. In Jewish deaf culture, deaf people were not given the same rights as ordinary people, because they were considered subhuman. According to the Torah and Talmud, they were not allowed to own property, participate in spiritual rituals, and appear as witnesses in court. There were also special marriage laws for deaf and mute people. In these days no lawyers were available to help with the situation either. DWI attorney Houston, public defense lawyers from San Antonio, and civil rights attorneys from Dallas were all of no use with the discrimination of the deaf in this era.
Discrimination continued for many centuries. In 322 BC, the ancient Greeks denied the deaf the right to an education. Aristotle said that education was impossible without hearing. Until 550 AD, the Christians believed that deafness was a sin, and St. Augustine remarked that deaf people were a representation of God’s anger towards the sins of their parents. Nonetheless, Benedictine monks who were not hearing or speech-impaired took the vow of silence as a way to honor God, and they even developed their own sign language.
In the 16th century, some people in Europe were making attempts to educate the deaf. A Benedictine monk by the name of Pedro Ponce de Leon devised a way to teach the deaf to speak, and he managed to help dozens of deaf people overcome their speech problems. Also, a doctor called Geronimo Cardano, whose son was deaf, developed a system of symbols to enable the deaf to write. De Leon and Cardano’s efforts led Juan Pablo Bonet to create an alphabetical system for deaf people. This system was published in 1620, and it is known today as finger spelling.
From the 17th century to the 19th century, a significant percentage of the residents of Martha’s Vineyard in America were deaf. The town developed its own sign language, and this language was used in town councils and meetings. In the late 18th century, a priest called Charles Michel de L’Eppe founded the first public deaf school in France, and he taught both signing and finger spelling to his students.
Public deaf education began in the United States in 1817, when Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet established the American School for the Deaf. In 1864, Gallaudet’s son, Edward Miner Gallaudet, became the inaugural president of the National College for the Deaf and Dumb, the first college of its kind in America. The name of the school would be changed to Gallaudet College in 1893to honor the Gallaudet family’s immense contribution to deaf education.
The first electrical hearing aid was invented around early 20th century. This device worked by amplifying sounds, and it enabled many hearing-impaired people to communicate more effectively. In 1973, the Rehabilitation Act was established to create more employment opportunities for the deaf community. Another act called the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 to ensure that deaf people will not experience job discrimination.
Here are links to more information about deaf history:
- History of Deafness
- Timeline of Deaf History
- History of Sign Language
- Juan Pablo Bonet
- American Deaf Culture Timeline
- Deafness in the American Colonies
- Deaf Education in America
- Deaf Community in Martha’s Vineyard
- Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet
- History of Hearing Aids
- The Rights of Deaf People Today
- Famous Deaf People