Deaf History Month

Celebrating the achievements and contributions of people who are deaf and hard of hearing to American society
March 12, 2021
Originally envisioned to span one week, National Deaf History Month was founded in 1977 by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). In 2006, NAD and the American Library Association announced that Deaf History Month would be honored annually covering three dates of major historical significance for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, officially marking March 13 to April 15 annually as Deaf History Month.

Congress has not yet made Deaf History Month a federally recognized event. There is still work to be done. We invite our community to explore the resources and stories below, gathered by the Sacramento Public Library’s AccessABILITY and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committees.

Did you know? Library card holders can learn ASL with free online language classes through Gale Courses.

Deaf Culture
Deaf Culture Our Way: Anecdotes from the Deaf Community 4th Edition by Roy K. Holocomb

"Deaf Culture is a powerful testimony to both the profound needs and the profound possibilities of human beings. Out of a striving for human language, generations of Deaf signers have fashioned a signed language rich enough to mine for poetry and storytelling. Out of a striving to interpret, to make sense of their world, they have created systems of meaning that explain how they understand their place in the world. That the culture of Deaf people has endured, despite indirect and tenuous lines of transmission and despite generations of changing social conditions, attests to the tenacity of the basic human needs for language and symbol." (mnhandsandvoices.org)

 

Deaf BIPOC Community

Deaf Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) have historically lacked access to information (information controlled by white Deaf people), been deprived of equal access to education and language, been left out of outreach efforts by social services, and faced scores of systemic racism in healthcare access, insurance, healthcare information, general community information, and the like. In short, systemic racism is alive and well within the Deaf community (Deaf BIPOC: Unpacking the Needs in the Community). 

Haben: the deafblind woman who conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma

“Communities designed with just one kind of person in mind isolate those of us defying their narrow definition of personhood. This book takes readers on a quest for connection across the world, including building a school under the scorching Malian sun, climbing icebergs in Alaska, training with a guide dog in New Jersey, studying law at Harvard, and sharing a magical moment with President Obama while at the White House. Unlike most memoirs, the stories here unfold in present tense. Hindsight may be 20/20, but 20/20 is not how I experience this ever-surprising world (Girma, Haben).”
 

Girl At War by Deaf novelist Sara Nović

“My first novel has recently become an audiobook to which I will not listen. The characters have been assigned voices and accents and inflections that I’ll never hear. This is not a complaint, exactly; to have written a book that someone wants to publish in any and all formats is a writer’s dream. But to hold some disc or drive that contains a thing I made, transformed into a new thing I can no longer understand, is a predicament in which few writers find themselves (Sara Nović, What It’s Like to be a Deaf Novelist).”

 

Can Bears Ski? by Raymond Antrobus

Little Bear feels the world around him. He feels his bed rumble when Dad Bear wakes him up in the morning. He feels the floor shake when his teacher stomps to get his attention. But something else is missing, like when his friends tell jokes that he isn't sure he understands, or when all around him Little Bear hears the question, "Can bears ski?" Then, one day, Dad Bear takes him to see an "aud-i-olo-gist," and Little Bear learns that he has been experiencing deafness and will start wearing hearing aids. Soon he figures out what that puzzling refrain is: "Can you hear me?" Little Bear's new world is LOUD and will take some getting used to, but with the love and support of Dad Bear, he will find his way. In this lyrical book, award-winning creators Raymond Antrobus and Polly Dunbar draw on their own experiences to tell Bear's story.

Children of Deaf Adults (CODA)

It is important for professionals to understand how wide a variance there may be in the linguistic environments of hearing children of Deaf parents. Additionally, professionals need to be aware that to grow up truly bilingual, a hearing child needs not only contacts with the majority language but also sufficient exposure to sign language (Kanto, L., Huttunen, K., & Laakso, M. L. (2013). Relationship between the linguistic environments and early bilingual language development of hearing children in Deaf-parented families). 

 

The Sound of All Things by Myron Uhlbert

Author Myron Uhlberg “grew up in Brooklyn, New York, the first-born hearing child of two deaf parents. American Sign Language is his first language. This is the story of a hearing boy and his deaf parents from Brooklyn enjoying the rides, food, and sights of 1930's Coney Island where the father longs to know about how everything sounds and his son tries to interpret the noisy surroundings through sign language and a wealth of new words learned from a trip to the library. "

 

Interpreters and Captioners

The NorCal Services for Deaf & Hard of Hearing has been an organization “of, by and for” the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community since 1977. The organization believes “it is a basic human right to have access to opportunities for service, education and employment. Therefore, it is our vision that Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals have access and opportunities to services, education and employment equal to those who can hear.” Its mission is to empower Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals to live independently and productively within the greater society; educate family members, service providers, employers. and the general public of the unique communication needs, abilities, and accomplishments of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and adults; and advocate for equal access and opportunities for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals in our society. 

NorCal Services for Deaf & Hard of Hearing supports and provides interpreting and captioning support, including an after-hours emergency support line. The NorCal Services for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing office is located in Sacramento, California.  
 

Song For a Whale by Sign Language Interpreter Lynne Kelly

“American Sign Language is a natural language, with its own rules and grammar, rather than an invented system to represent English visually. Like spoken languages, sign languages are created by the people who use them, and they grow and change over time. They aren’t modeled after a spoken language but develop independently , from interactions among a population of people. Because of this, signed languages vary from country to country and can have a very different grammar from a country’s spoken language (Kelly, Lynne).” 




Recommended Reading
The following #OwnVoice Book lists were developed by the Sacramento Public Library’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Team with support from the AccessABILITY Committee. #OwnVoices specifies authors from under-represented and marginalized groups, who write from their own perspective and experiences. Author Corinne Duyvis is credited for starting the #OwnVoice movement in 2015.