March 13 to April 15 commemorates Deaf History Month. In the United States alone, there are over 600,000 people who are deaf and over 6,000,000 who are hard of hearing. One of the most important events that has occurred in Deaf history was the foundation of Gallaudet University in Washington D.C - the only university in the world completely dedicated to Deaf students (Berke). Instruction takes place in English and American Sign Language [ASL].
This university has been home to many successful students including Dr. Shirley Jeanne Allen, the first Black deaf woman to earn a doctoral degree in the USA and Dr. Glenn Anderson, the first Black deaf man to receive a PhD in the USA. Gallaudet's ninth president was Dr. Robert R. Davila, a Mexican-American man with roots in the Central Valley.
Aside from Gallaudet alumni, members of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing [Deaf/hh] community belong to all fields that one can possibly imagine, from art, film, music, politics, sports, education, and so on. Some of these figures include the great composer - Ludwig van Beethoven, the phenomenal artist - Francisco Goya, actress - Halle Berry, entertainer - Stephen Colbert, former Cleveland Cavaliers center - Lance Allred, former fullback for the Seattle Seahawks - Derrick Coleman Jr., and the founder of the Girl Scouts - Juliette Gordon Low. The list can go on of cultural contributors who belong to the Deaf/hh community.
How can someone be an ally to the Deaf/hh community? There's a number of ways including learning basic ASL signs, advocating for an increase in the use of Closed Captioning and subtitles in all video sources, and recognizing the importance of interpreters.
As we commemorate Deaf History Month, take the time to read about some of the contributions that community members have made. Reedley College has its very own ASL department that is led by Professor Joseph Lind. Our ASL classes can fulfill General Education language requirements; the college also offers an Associate degree and certificate in ASL!
Check out the additional resources below to get started learning about the Deaf/hh community and the basics of ASL.
Ogunyipe, Benro."Black Deaf Culture through the Lens of Black Deaf History."
The Described and Captioned Media Program. 2021.
Berke, Jamie. "Celebrating Deaf History Month. Very Well Health. 14 Jun.
Borgia, Shelley A., "Celebrities with Hearing Loss." WebMD, 21 April. 2020.
"Famous Deaf People." Start ASL. 15 Feb. 2021.
Gallaudet University. "Snapshot of Deaf and Hard of Hearing People,
Postsecondary Attendance and Unemployment." Gallaudet University,
Wrench, Lisa. "Limited English Proficiency among the Deaf and Hard of
Hearing Population: A Consideration for Care." Language People, n.d.