A history overview of Deaf and sign language

This timeline only gives a general overview of the history in Deaf education, sign language, and human rights.

In the beginning...1000 B.C.: Hebrew law provides that the Deaf have limited rights to property and marriage. Ref.

In the Ancient Greek 384-322 B.C.: Greek philosopher, Aristotle, pronounced that "Deaf people could not be educated without hearing, people could not learn." Ref. 427-347 B.C.: Ancient Greek philosopher Plato believes in his book "Plato's Cratylus" that all people were born with innate intelligence and it must be nurtured or developed. Without speech, deaf people had primitive thoughts.

Middle Ages 345-550 AD: St. Augustine told early Christians that deafness is a punishment from God.

16th century (Renaissance): Geronimo Cardano, a physician in northern Italy, proclaimed that deaf people could learn and understand via sign communication. Ref. Argued against Aristotle's teaching that thought was only connected to speech.

1700s-1850s-1950s: From the emergence to the peak to the decline of the Deaf population ("utopia") where everyone, both hearing and deaf residents, talked in MVSL on the Martha's Vineyard island, Massachusetts.

18th Century: Abbe L'Epee of Paris founded the first free school for deaf people in 1760. He demonstrated that deaf people could learn via the manual method of communication. In 1778, the first free public school for the deaf, using the oral method of communication, was established in Leipzig, Germany.

19th Century, 1817: Thomas Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc founded the first American public school for deaf students in Hartford, Connecticut in 1817. Laurent Clerc became the United States' first deaf sign language teacher. Subsequently, schools for deaf people began to populate in several states.

1864: The National Deaf-Mute College (now Gallaudet University) was founded by Thomas Gallaudet's son Edward Miner Gallaudet. President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law.

1880: A pre-planned resolution was passed that sign language was to be forbidden in favor of speech at International Congress on Education of the Deaf in Milan, Italy. The beginning of the Dark Ages...

1880: Threatened by the infamous Milan of Congress 1880, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) was founded in 1880. The NAD President George Veditz (1861-1937) launched the project Preservation of Sign Language films in 1913 in response to the fear for the decline of sign language. The films are the oldest filmed records of American Sign Language.

1924: Comite International des Sports des Sourds (CISS) was founded in Paris during the first World Games for the Deaf held in Paris, France with six nations participating in the competitions (CISS Handbook 1975-85) The Gestuno (now International Sign) was developed and used by Deaf officials and participants at this first international sports event and is still used at international Deaf events.

1914-1919, 1939-1945: During the World War I and II, job opportunities were created for deaf people. Likewise for women and other minorities. Employers were impressed by Deaf people's work records.

1951: The First World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) took place in Rome, Italy, with participants from 25 countries.

1960s: the birth of ASL linguistics: Gallaudet professor William Stokoe published a first linguistic book of American Sign Language as a language.

1970s: Linguistics research and studies on ASL. Total communication in Deaf education. Deaf guest/actress Linda Bove joined the American children's popular TV show, "Sesame Street".

1980s: ASL courses boomed across North America. Bicultural-bilingualism movement in Deaf education. Closed captioning was provided for the first time on televsion. Phyllis French was the first Deaf to win a Tony award (the Best Actress) in the play "Children of a Lesser God". Diana, Princess of Wales, who was a Royal Patron of the British Deaf Association in 1983, studied British Sign Language (BSL). The Smurfs became the first cartoon to use sign language in America on TV (and the highest ratings it ever had). Marlee Matlin was the first deaf to win the "Best Actress" Oscar award for the role in the film, "Children of a Lesser God". Deaf President Now protest at Gallaudet (1988). ASL was officially recognized in Manitoba, and then in Alberta.

1990s: Signed languages were officially recognized in the countries' national constitutions. Deaf Studies courses offered at colleges/universities. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled in the Eldridge v. British Columbia case that sign language interpreters must be provided in the health care services across Canada. The Britsh Royal princes visited a deaf school in Burnaby, Canada.

2000s: More signed languages were officially recognized in other countries' constitutions or laws. More Deaf members in the governments. ASL writing emerging. The United Nations' Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) was adopted, which includes the recognition of signed languages of the Deaf.

2010s: More signed languages offically recognized in other countries. The 2010 ICED (International Congress on the Education of the Deaf) stated a formal apology for the Milan 1880 conference which banned signed languages in deaf education. The ABC Family's Switched at Birth broadcasted its first all-ASL episode in the history on mainstream TV. Dr. Liisa Kauppinen received the 2013 United Nations Human Rights Award Prize from the United Nations. Nyle DiMarco won both "America's Next Top Model" (ANTM) and "Dancing With the Stars". The United Nations General Assembly declared September 23 as International Day of Sign Languages.