What is deafness? Deafness is not the absence of sound, but the inability to understand speech at normal levels. Most deaf persons can hear something.
Deaf in America Many deaf Americans prefer to be called deaf, not hearing impaired. Approximately 10 million Americans are considered to be “hard-of-hearing”. About 1.5 million are Deaf.
Thomas Gallaudet Thomas Gallaudet was born in 1787. He graduated from Yale University at the age of 17 and decided to become a minister.
Alice Cogswell Thomas’ plans changed when he met the 9- year-old deaf girl, Alice Cogswell. Gallaudet felt that the deaf were cut off from learning about the Gospel due to their lack of language and education. Thomas decided to become a deaf educator. Unfortunately deaf education was not really understood in America at that time.
England and oralism In 1815, Alice’s wealthy father sent Gallaudet to Europe to learn how to teach the deaf. Gallaudet first went to England where they used oralism (speech only) to instruct the deaf.
France and FSL Gallaudet then went to France where he went to a deaf school run by a Catholic priest named Charles-Michel de l'Épée. The students were using FSL (French sign language).
Laurent Clerc Gallaudet decided to use FSL in his school. A deaf teacher, Laurent Clerc, went back to Hartford, Connecticut with Gallaudet. Together they started the first school for the deaf in 1817.
The American School for the Deaf In 1817, Gallaudet and Clerc established the first school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. Students incorporated many regional signs into the FSL Clerc used for instruction. This was the foundation of ASL. The American School for the Deaf is still in operation today.