The establishment of schools and institutions specializing in deaf education has a history spanning back across multiple centuries. They utilized a variety of instructional approaches and philosophies. The manner in which the language barrier is handled between the hearing and the deaf remains a topic of great controversy. Many of the early establishments of formalized education for the deaf are currently acknowledged for the influence they've contributed to the development and standards of deaf education today.
France: 1760 – National Institute for Deaf-Mutes
The National Institute of Deaf-mutes was founded in 1760 by Charles-Michel de l'Épée in Paris, France. Its establishment of origin was a house on 14 rue des Moulin. Two years later, it was opened to the public. Its second installation was established on the rue de Saint-Jacques adjacent to Luxembourg Palace and its gardens.
Charles-Michel de l'Épée (1712-1789), also known as the Abbé de l'Épée, was a philanthropic Catholic priest known for founding the first free public school for the deaf. He is commonly referred to by the monikers "Father of the Deaf" and "Father of Sign Language". The historical reality is that he learned the already existing sign language from his early deaf pupils and converted it into a form he found preferable for use in educational methods.
England: 1760 – Braidwood Academy for the Deaf and Dumb
In 1760, Scottish teacher, Thomas Braidwood founded Braidwood Academy for the Deaf and Dumb in Edinburgh. The school's rapid gain of public attention could be credited to Thomas Braidwood's brazen advertising of his methods and his institution.
The school began with only one student, a young deaf man named Charles Shirreff. It continued gaining notoriety over time, increasing its student population and staff. In 1783, the school was relocated to a larger facility outside of London.
Germany: 1778 – Samuel Heinicke's School for Deaf Children in Leipzig
Samuel Heinicke (1727–1790), in 1778, opened the first German public school for the education of the deaf. The school for deaf children established by Samuel Heinicke in Leipzig, Germany was originally called "Electoral Saxon Institute for Mutes and Other Persons Afflicted with Speech Defects."
Like Épée's school in France, Heinicke's institution was opened publicly to serve underprivileged deaf youth. However, unlike Épée, Heinicke resolutely opposed the dependence on sign language and, in 1780, published a book attacking the Abbé de l'Épée's use of sign language in the education of deaf students. He ardently advocated the oral method of deaf education made popular throughout Europe by other prominent contributors to the field, such as Johann Konrad Amman. Amman theorized that, "The breath of life resides in the voice, transmitting enlightenment through it. The voice is the interpreter of our hearts and expresses its affections and desires." Like Amman, Heinicke believed a spoken language to be an indispensable aspect of a proper education.
United States: 1857 – Gallaudet University
Gallaudet University was originally established as a grammar school for deaf and blind children under the name Columbia Institute for the Instruction of the Deaf, Dumb and Blind. The school was founded in 1857 by Amos Kendall (1789-1869) on his estate. It was later renamed in commemoration of progressive educator and advocate, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Amos Kendall hired Edward Miner Gallaudet, son of Thomas Gallaudet, as the school's first superintendent.
As a result of intensive lobbying on the school's behalf by Kendall and Gallaudet, on April 8th, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill that allowed the school to award college degrees to its graduating students. The first commencement ceremony took place in June of 1869 with the graduation of three deaf men. The diplomas were signed by President Ulysses S. Grant and, since then, all diplomas from Gallaudet are signed by the sitting United States President. As a result of its new classification, the institution revised its name to the National College for the Deaf and Dumb.
Germany: 1873 – Israelite Institute for the Deaf of Germany
The Israelite Institute for the Deaf of Germany was founded by a hearing man named Markus Reich. The school was opened to the public in 1873; however, its conception began around 1870-71 when Reich was taking his final teaching exams. At this time, he had noted the exclusionary treatment of the Jewish and Deaf communities, especially as it pertained to eligibility for education.
The institution was originally located in a "small house in Fürstenwalde an der Spree". Reich was poor when he opened the institution and struggled to afford the school's expenses. He established a Jewish support organization for the deaf composed of wealthy community benefactors to help fund the continued efforts of the school. The support of this organization known as, "Jedide Ilmim" or "Friends of the Deaf", made possible, not only the continued security of Reich's institute, but also the opportunity for its expansion.
India: 1885 - Bombay Institute for the Deaf Mutes
The Deaf were generally considered uneducable and lived on charity or were taken care of by the joint family system. The first attempt at systematic education was undertaken at Mazagaon in the then Bombay Presidency in 1884 by a Roman Catholic Mission.
The laurels go to Dr. De Haerne for conceiving the idea of a school for the deaf in 1882. He sought the help of Lord Ripen for establishing a school for the deaf and succeeded. His attempts turned fruitful and Bombay Institute for the Deaf Mutes was founded in 1885 by Dr. Leo Meurin, the then Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bombay with Re. Fr. Goldsmith as its Principal. After nine years, the Calcutta Deaf & Dumb School was established in 1893 in the Eastern Zone. The third institution for the deaf came into existence in 1896 in Palayamkottah in the Southern Part of India.
Oralism in education
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines oralism as: "advocacy or use of the oral method of teaching the deaf". Oralism consists of various methods used in teaching the deaf how to read lips by recognizing formations of the mouth in spoken dialogue, practicing certain breathing patterns used to produce words and letters, and mimicking mouth shapes.
Oralism methods can be traced as far back as 1648. Oralism gained popularity in America in the 1860s when it began being utilized in the education process of many schools for the deaf. The notion of oral methodology gained tread in deaf educational institutions as popular opinion believed it was paramount for the deaf community try to "assimilate" themselves into the hearing world.
20th and 21st Century
Following the early institutions, there has been a lot of growth for institutions for deaf, hard of hearing, mute and deafblind. We present the leading ones below.