History of Deaf Culture

Deaf Culture has evolved into a social system of communication, beliefs, behaviors, values, literary traditions, and sign language. It wasn't until the early 1800s that deaf people in America began to be given the opportunity to gain an education, after a Deaf educator helped to found the first school for the deaf in the United States.

The first to record a theory about deaf people was Aristotle, who believed that the only way to learn was through spoken language. He therefore did not believe that deaf people could learn and as a result, deaf people were denied many rights such as being allowed to marry or buy property.

During the Renaissance, Aristotle's theory was disputed, and educators began to try to educate deaf people, going against the 2000-year-old theory. Sign language began to emerge following this attempt by scholars to prove him wrong.

The first scholar known to have attempted to educate the deaf was an Italian physician and mathematician named Geronimo Cardano, in the 1500s. He educated his deaf son using his methods. At the same time that Cardano was educating his deaf son, a Spanish monk was also teaching deaf children in Spain.

It wasn't until approximately 1750 that organized deaf education began, due to the efforts of a French Catholic Priest in Paris who founded a social and religious organization for the deaf. His name was Abbe de L'Epee, and he established the first public school for the deaf in 1771. He is known today as 'Father of the Deaf' because of his efforts to educate the deaf, which included establishing 21 schools for the deaf.

Sign language itself evolved as a system to communicate with hand signs, gestures, and facial expressions. American Sign Language was created with influence of French Sign Language. It began in the first school for the deaf in the U.S. in 1817.

Towards the end of the 1800s, sign language began to decline in favor of oralism, which did not use sign language and made educating the deaf almost impossible because it forced them to try and understand the spoken language in order to function in society.

Although sign language fell away from the classroom, it was still widely used outside of schools.

It wasn't until the 1960s in America however that American Sign Language became a recognized language in schools, with its own grammar and syntax. This was a result of the efforts of a scholar William Stokoe, who believed in sign language for education.

As educating the deaf with sign language became recognized around the world, more than 200 sign languages emerged. American Sign Language became recognized as a national language.

Deaf culture can include total communication, which involves making use of any means to effectively communicate. This can involve sign language, lip-reading, writing, facial expressions, computers, and any other technology that allows access to information and communication.

Deaf culture has become much more than just using sign language to communicate. Deaf culture embraces rules of behaviour, traditions, and values within the deaf community.

Related Links:
American Sign Language

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