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Shining Light on Deaf Culture & History

April is National Deaf History Month and we want to celebrate! Some may not be aware of this national designation. Others may be wondering what it really means. Why is there a Deaf History Month, and how can we participate?

Deaf History Month is a time for people around the country to raise awareness of the the unique qualities of Deaf culture and the rich stories that make up America’s Deaf history. Deaf History Month is celebrated at this time of year because of key events in the history of Deaf education, including the opening of the first public school for the Deaf (April 1817), the opening of the first university for the Deaf (April 1864), and the first Deaf university president at that institution (April 1988).

April is a time to recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Deaf individuals throughout history.

Deaf individuals contribute to society as inventors, artists, athletes, educators, and community leaders. We recognize these achievements and lift up these stories in April in order to honor the accomplishments of Deaf individuals and also to challenge societal perceptions and prejudices towards Deafness.

In particular, this month we’d like to shine a light on just a few of the Deaf community champions, those who advocate for Deaf people in their work, on social media, and in their daily lives. Their voices help to eliminate ill-founded preconceptions and to lift Deaf culture and the rich contributions Deaf communities are making to society on the whole.

One who advocates regularly for the Deaf community is Patrick McMullen, CEO of Inclusify Studio. McMullen puts a spotlight on businesses and how building an inclusive reputation can help boost brand loyalty. On LinkedIn he says, “Brands are missing out! Millions of Deaf consumers are eager to connect, but traditional marketing often leaves them out. Why? Inaccessible Ads: No captions, no sign language – Deaf viewers get shut out…” Elsewhere McMullen points out that accessibility isn’t a request, it’s an investment. By providing interpreters or offering captioning, you unlock authentic voices, engaged audiences, and positive brand image: Showcasing inclusivity strengthens a positive brand reputation.

We also appreciate the work and words of Deaf advocate Amanda Tuite, Co-Founder of Access Vine, as she leads the way toward greater accessibility as a normal part of life. Tuite builds connections between hearing and Deaf cultures by asking and answering common questions to build greater understanding. For example, on LinkedIn she echos this common question: “Can I say the word ‘Deaf?'” And she answers with, “The word, Deaf, is not a bad word. It’s our livelihood. It’s our identity and way of life…Generally speaking, inclusivity begins at the heart of understanding and respect. Using appropriate and preferred terminology while addressing the Deaf community is fundamental.”

Advocates like these help share the story of Deaf culture and history – in April, and throughout the year. DSU encourages all communities to reach out and learn about others. And in April, take time to learn about Deaf culture and history to gain a better understanding and to create a more productive and inclusive environment.