Important Events in Deaf History

Learn How 3 Significant Events Positively Impacted the Deaf Community

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Establishment of the First American School for the Deaf

Over 200 years ago, on April 15, 1817, the very first permanent school for the deaf was established in the United States.  Thomas Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc founded the school in Hartford, Connecticut. Gallaudet was the principal and Clerc was the head teacher. 

Clerc and Gallaudet met in Paris, France where Gallaudet was studying abroad to learn methods for teaching the deaf. Gallaudet was impressed with the teaching of Laurent Clerc, who was a deaf head teacher at the institution in Paris. After convincing Clerc to go to America with him, Gallaudet and Clerc established the first school for the deaf in the United States.

The school started out with only seven students, one of which was Alice Cogswell, the daughter of Gallaudet’s neighbor.  She was Gallaudet’s inspiration in finding ways to educate the deaf. The school quickly grew and educated deaf students of all ages. 

Today, there are nearly 100 schools for the deaf across the United States of America. Dacia attended one of these schools (California School for the Deaf, Berkeley – CSDB – which has since moved to Fremont, CA) from age 12 until graduating high school in 1979. It provided a sense of community and gave her the opportunity to participate in all “typical” high school activities without the struggle of language barriers. When asked what she thought of her experience at CSDB her response was, “It was the best thing my parents did for me.”

Dacia overlooking the campus of the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley. Photo taken in 1979. 

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Dacia and her future husband at homecoming. 

Dacia (second from the left) with the team of “pom pom” girls.


Signing of the Gallaudet University Charter by President Abraham Lincoln

Gallaudet is the only University in the world specifically for deaf and hard of hearing students. It was founded in 1864 by Thomas Gallaudet and is located in Washington D.C.


Their website states, “For over 150 years, we have stood firm to our mission, which is to empower deaf and hard of hearing students. Gallaudet is our space where the vitality of the Deaf experience and vibrancy of sign language thrive. By acting together for the greater good of our students and our community, we create a better world. 


Dacia attended Gallaudet University in 1980, and was involved in several extra-curricular actives, including joining the gymnastics team (check out her picture below). If you happen to be visiting the area, you should definitely check out the beautiful campus!

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Dacia (far right) pictured with two other members of the 1980 Gallaudet University gymnastics team.


DPN - Deaf President Now

Students marching during the DPN protest.

Dacia (left) pictured with friends at Gallaudet University.

DPN stands for Deaf President Now, which was a week long well organized movement/protest at Gallaudet University. The protesters fought to have Deaf individuals in positions of leadership, especially the role of the university president.


The movement was fueled by the fact that a hearing president was selected out of a pool of three nominees, two of which were deaf and qualified. The board decided to select the ONE hearing nominee to be the president, Elizabeth Zinser, who did not know sign language.


The Deaf community was outraged, because it was time for change. For over 100 years, the university, which is specifically for deaf and hard of hearing students, was lead by only hearing individuals.


After about one week, on March 13, 1988, Zinser stepped down and Dr. King Jordan was named the 8th president of Gallaudet University. Dr. King Jordan was the very first deaf president!


This was a major breakthrough in deaf rights and proved that, “Deaf people can do anything hearing people can do, except hear.” – Dr. King Jordan

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