Communication Matters

Deaf History Month - Facts and Resources

Sharon Dundee | Posted on February 20, 2020

Deaf huddleNational Deaf History Month is celebrated from March 15 – April 15. It recognizes contributions of deaf and hard of hearing (HoH) people, as well as highlighting the various forms of communication chosen by deaf and HoH individuals – including American Sign Language (ASL). For example – did you know that the football huddle we use today was first started at a college for the deaf in the 1890s so the players could keep their ASL signing hidden from the opposing team?

Three Important Dates

Deaf History Month straddles two months to highlight three of the key milestones in deaf history:

March 13, 1988: The Deaf President Now movement succeeds in having I. King Jordan named the first deaf president of Gallaudet University. Dr. Jordan became known as a symbol of self-determination and empowerment for deaf and hard of hearing people around the world.

April 8, 1864: President Abraham Lincoln signs the charter of Gallaudet University in Washington, the first school for the advanced education of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing in the world.

April 15, 1817: The first permanent public school for the deaf, the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, opens.


Famous Deaf People

Nyle DiMarco – The first deaf winner on America’s Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars.

Heather Whitestone  – The first deaf woman to be crowned Miss America.

Juliette Gordon Low – The founder of the Girl Scouts.

Derrick Coleman – Legally deaf by the age of 3, he became the first deaf offensive player in the NFL and played for the Seattle Seahawks including the XVLIII Super Bowl.

Jane Lynch – Famous actress known for her starring role on the hit TV series “Glee”. She is deaf in one ear.

Rob Lowe – American actor, completely deaf in right ear.

Holly Hunter – American actress who starred in The Piano for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She received Oscar nominations for her roles in ThirteenThe Firm, and Broadcast News. She’s also received two Emmy’s and six Golden Globe nominations. Hunter is profoundly deaf in one ear from a bout with mumps during childhood.

Stephen Colbert – An American comedian, actor, author, and host of the Late Show. He is deaf in his right ear.

Ludwig van Beethoven – Was completely deaf for the last part of his life and yet managed to produce some of the greatest music of all time.

Thomas Alva Edison – An American scientist, inventor, and businessman.

Valuable Resources

  • The Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH) at Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center offers resources and advocacy for the deaf and HoH. For more information visit

  • American Sign Language classes are held four times per year at CCDHH. The 2020 Spring session begins April 7th. For more information, or to register for a class, visit

  • Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center offers American Sign Language interpreters for ADA compliance assistance. To book an ASL interpreter, go to:

Tags: Communication, Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Interpreting, ASL Interpreter



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