April is National Deaf History Month

American Sign Language depiction of Deaf History MonthNational Deaf History Month celebrates the contributions and accomplishments of people who are deaf and those who are hard of hearing and raises awareness for the Deaf community. The National Association of the Deaf first introduced National Deaf History Month in 1997, and in 2006, the American Library Association partnered with NAD in supporting and spreading awareness of this celebration. Initially, the month was celebrated from mid-March to mid-April. Then in March 2022, the National Association of the Deaf released a statement changing the dates to April 1-30 based on feedback from the NAD Deaf Culture and History Section and various stakeholders, including from organizations that represent marginalized communities within the Deaf Community.

Deaf History

April 15, 1817 — The American School for the Deaf, the first public permanent school for Deaf children in the United States, was opened. Located in West Hartford, Connecticut, the school is a nationally renowned leader in providing comprehensive educational programs and services for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

April 8, 1864 — Gallaudet University, the first and only higher education institution for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students, was founded. Gallaudet, a private federally chartered research university in Washington, DC, is the only university in the world where students live and learn using American Sign Language and English.

Harvard University: Deaf History Timeline offers an overview of important dates in history that had an impact on the growth and evolution of American Sign Language.

Encyclopedia Britannica: History of the Deaf includes information dating back to the 16th century.

People and Events in Deaf History


The University of Alabama

front of academic building with columns, steps and windows
Houser Hall

The UA Office of Disability Services, located in Houser Hall across from the UA Student Center, offers deaf and hard-of-hearing services. Accommodations are available for students and resources are available for faculty and staff. View the ODS video.

BAMA ASL Club hosts events, volunteering opportunities and other opportunities to study and support American Sign Language and Deaf culture.

The Crimson White: SGA Adds Accommodations for Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Students (2022)

Mosaic: ‘UA’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community Face the Pandemic’ (2021)

Close-up side view of police officers practicing sign language
Local law enforcement officers learn etiquette and proper methods for communicating with deaf citizens.

UA News Center

UA College of Arts and Sciences/Department of Communicative Disorders: ‘Hear Here Alabama Receives $2M NIH Grant’ (2021)

UA Laboratory of Computational Intelligence for Radar

Dr. Darrin J. Griffin: Deaf Culture


Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind — the world’s most comprehensive education, rehabilitation and service program serving individuals of all ages who are deaf, blind, deaf-blind and multi-disabled. Founded in 1858 by a young medical doctor who wanted to educate his deaf brother, AIDB now serves more than 30,000 infants, toddlers, children, adults and seniors with hearing and vision loss throughout Alabama each year. Located in Talladega, AIDB has six campuses, and eight regional centers which extend program offerings throughout the state.

Cover of a video case that shows a picture of people using sign language while standing in front an American flag

National Association of the Deaf

National Association of the Deaf Resources

United States Census Bureau: Deaf History Month

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders: Quick Statistics About Hearing

Documentary: ‘Through Deaf Eyes’ — This two-hour documentary explores 200 years of Deaf life in America and presents a broad range of perspectives on what it means to be deaf. The film is propelled by the stories of people, both eminent and ordinary, and sheds light on events that have shaped Deaf lives. The film includes interviews with prominent members of the Deaf community, including actress Marlee Matlin and Gallaudet University president emeritus I. King Jordan. Interwoven throughout the film are six short documentaries produced by Deaf media artists and filmmakers.

American Sign Language Spoken Here – “Before William Stokoe‘s groundbreaking research, American Sign Language (ASL) was erroneously viewed as a pantomime, a poor substitute for spoken speech. Now ASL is recognized as a language with its own syntax, morphology, and structure.” With National Science Foundation grants Stokoe and two of his Gallaudet colleagues created the Dictionary of American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles in 1965. National Science Foundation

What is sign language?

Deaf President Now – In March 1988, Gallaudet University experienced a watershed event that led to the appointment of the 124-year-old university’s first deaf president. Since then, Deaf President Now (DPN) has become synonymous with self-determination and empowerment for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people everywhere.

How ‘Deaf President Now’ Changed America – A brief history of the movement that transformed a university and helped catalyze the Americans With Disabilities Act.

D-PAN.TV – In March 2016, Deaf Professional Arts Network, known as D-Pan, launched a go-to source for American Sign Language-related content. The highlight of the network is DTV News, featuring Deaf anchors who share national news in ASL along with captioning and voiceovers. The network also offers a variety of entertainment and educational content produced by and starring some of the biggest names in the Deaf community.

Deaf View/Image Art, also known as De’Via, is art that examines and expresses the Deaf experience form a cultural, linguistic and intersectional point of view.

Museum of Deaf History, Arts and Culture – Located in Olathe, Kansas, the museum exposes visitors to the historical experiences of being Deaf and the numerous contributions of Deaf people to the world.


The National Association of the Deaf offers archived webinars.


Today, about 11.5 million Americans have some sort of hearing impairment, ranging from difficulty in hearing conversation to total hearing loss. That’s about 3.5 percent of the population. In addition, around 50 million of the population experience some level of tinnitus — a constant ringing in the ears.

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: Statistics About Hearing

A deaf quarterback is credited with the invention of the modern circular football huddle. Read more on this Wikipedia page started by UA students.

The 2021 movie “CODA,” which won an Academy Award for Best Picture in addition to numerous other awards, was the first film to have burned-in subtitles on screen. CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults.

The Deaf and the Origin of Hand Signals in Baseball

Person seated talking with her mouth and hands
The National Association of the Deaf’s Media Expert Group shares its position statement on the portrayal of and appropriate terminology for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Deaf Culture Facts That Might Surprise You

Deaf Fun Facts You Need to Know


Healthy Hearing: Communication Tips for Talking to People with Hearing Loss

Disability Language Style Guide: Deaf

American Sign Language Classes

NAD’s Position on Deaf People in Media

Famous Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing People

Sandra Mae Frank — actress and producer, “New Amsterdam”

Marlee Matlin — author, activist, Academy Award-winning actress for “Children of a Lesser God” in 1986, and starred in “Coda” in 2021

Nyle DiMarco – model, actor, activist, first deaf winner on ”America’s Next Top Model” and “Dancing with the Stars,” an executive producer of “Audible,” and president of the Nyle DiMarco Foundation

Heather Whitestone – Alabama native and the first deaf woman to be crowned Miss America

Juliette Gordon Low – founder of the Girl Scouts

Derrick Coleman – first deaf offensive player in the NFL and played for the Seattle Seahawks, including in the XVLIII Super Bowl

Lou Ferrigno — actor, body builder, personal trainer, known for his role as the Incredible Hulk

Ludwig van Beethoven – German composer and pianist whose works rank among the most performed in classical music

5 Famous Deaf People Who Changed the World

Famous people with hearing loss