September is Deaf Awareness Month, a time dedicated to celebrating the rich culture and history of the Deaf community, and continuing the work of advocating for the rights of Deaf people everywhere.
What is the connection between Deaf Awareness Month and the Month of September?
While the entire month of September is dedicated to Deaf Awareness, International Week of the Deaf (IWD) is observed annually throughout the last full week of September (to commemorate the first World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf, which took place in September 1951). This year IWD will be held September 18th - 25th. The first International Day of the Deaf was first celebrated by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) in 1958. The day of awareness was later extended to a full week, becoming the International Week of the Deaf (IWD).
11 Ways to Honor Deaf Awareness:
Continue reading for:
Information about American Sign Language
What is American Sign Language?
American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, natural language that has the same linguistic properties as spoken languages, with grammar that differs from English.
ASL is expressed by movements of the hands and face. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing and is used by some hearing people as well.
Is sign language the same in other countries?
There is no universal sign language. Different sign languages are used in different countries or regions. For example, British Sign Language (BSL) is a different language from ASL, and Americans who know ASL may not understand BSL. Some countries adopt features of ASL in their sign languages.
Where did ASL originate?
No person or committee invented ASL. The exact beginnings of ASL are not clear, but some suggest that it arose more than 200 years ago from the intermixing of local sign languages and French Sign Language (LSF, or Langue des Signes Française). Today’s ASL includes some elements of LSF plus the original local sign languages; over time, these have melded and changed into a rich, complex, and mature language. Modern ASL and modern LSF are distinct languages. While they still contain some similar signs, they can no longer be understood by each other’s users. It’s important to note some Deaf people sign, some speak, some lip read, some use a mixture! Ask the person how they want to communicate.
For additional information on ASL, early learning in children, and current research visit: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/american-sign-language
For a directory of National organizations visit: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/directory
Notable People (Public Figures)
While there are numerous folx that could be added to these lists, here are a few examples of individuals that have made noteworthy contributions:
TED Talks from Deaf Individuals:
Antonietta Alfano is a Rochester, NY based deaf artist who is an aerial performer, professional dancer, entertainer, contortionist, and a spiritual mentor. Using simultaneous communication (the process of signing and voicing at the same time) Antonietta brings to light the challenges of following her passions in a world created for hearing people: Removing Interference: The Power of Direct Connection | Antonietta Alfano | TEDxRochester
Rhodes Scholar Rachel Kolb -- who was born deaf -- shows what is possible through family support and self-belief, and proves that what is assumed about you and what you can actually achieve don't always match up: Navigating deafness in a hearing world | Rachel Kolb | TEDxStanford
Ludwig van Beethoven - composer and pianist
Beethoven remains one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music; his works rank amongst the most performed of the classical music repertoire and span the transition from the Classical period to the Romantic era in classical music. From 1802 to around 1812, his middle period showed an individual development from the styles of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and is sometimes characterized as heroic. During this time, he began to grow increasingly deaf. Beethoven's hearing loss did not prevent him from composing music, but it made playing at concerts—an important source of income at this phase of his life—increasingly difficult.
Clayton Valli - Deaf linguist and American Sign Language (ASL) poet
As a poet, Valli created original works in ASL that he performed to appreciative audiences around the US. His poems make sophisticated use of handshape, movement, use of space, repetition and facial expression. Influenced by canonical American poets like Robert Frost, as well as deaf poets such as Bernard Bragg, Valli often chose nature imagery to convey subtle insights into deaf experience. His brief "Hands" — which makes use of the 5 handshape throughout — is a celebration of the power of sign language to describe anything in the universe. "Dandelion" uses simple nature imagery to convey the persistence of ASL despite oralists' best efforts to weed it out:
Haben Girma - First DeafBlind person to graduate Harvard Law School
Haben Girma is an accomplished disability rights lawyer and the first DeafBlind person to graduate from Harvard Law School. Former US President Barack Obama named her a White House Champion of Change, and she has also received a Hellen Keller Achievement Award in 2018. Girma is a passionate advocate for disability rights. She sparked her own interest in law when she could not access the menus at a university café, and demanded that they make the menus accessible for all students in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (or ADA). Learn More at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOw8CgbFiuY
Derrick Coleman - First legally deaf offensive player in the NFL player
Derrick Coleman is the first legally deaf offensive player in America’s National Football League (NFL). After playing football for the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Coleman signed on with Minnesota Vikings in 2012.
Coleman became legally deaf when he was three years old due to genetic hearing loss. Throughout his professional career, Coleman has played for the Minnesota Vikings, the Seattle Seahawks, the Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals. He uses a mixture of hand signals and lip reading to communicate with his team during games. Learn more at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtAu10SWjWE
Kitty O’Neil - American stuntwoman and speed racer
Known as ‘the fastest woman in the world’, Kitty O’Neil was an American stuntwoman and speed racer, most famous in the 1970s. Whether she was setting world speed records, or leaping 127 feet from a balcony as Lynda Carter’s stunt double in Wonder Woman, Kitty pushed the limits throughout her career. In her words, “Deaf people can do anything. Never give up. When I was 18, I was told I couldn’t get a job because I was deaf. But I said, someday I’m going to be famous in sports, to show them I can do anything.” Watch Kitty race in a rocket car at speeds of up to 386 miles per hour in the below clip. (Note: She was not injured in this video!): https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nV_eexFDU2U
For additional information on famous deaf individuals visit:
Solidarity and Allyship
Whether you are a part of a group, or not, we are united together hoping to see each other in full humanity. For that reason, we feel it’s important to give resources for children and adults on being an ally, and an upstander- the ways you can include, stand up for or support those who aren't being treated well or feeling left out.
Common Myths About Sign Language: 6 Myths about Sign Language
Misconceptions about Deaf People: Deaf People answer commonly googled questions about being Deaf
Tips to be Deaf friendly: Read tips for communicating with a Deaf child or young person (note though this is U.K.-based resource where they may use BSL, it can still apply to all children and those who use ASL):
Help and Advice - Deaf Awareness video: “Face Me When You Talk”
Top Tips for communicating with a Deaf child or young person (note though this is U.K.-based resource where they may use BSL, it can still apply to all children and those who use ASL)
Story in ASL: “All Are Welcome” by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne
For additional Children’s Stories in American Sign Language (ASL) & English visit:
Resources in the Rochester Area
Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID) is among the TOP 5 Universities for deaf and hard of hearing students and offers a top tier education while simultaneously providing them with career-focused programs in preparation for life after college. One of just three major U.S. universities focused on deaf and hard of hearing education, NTID offers students a unique sense of community during their college years.
Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) is a leader in creating a vibrant community of lifelong learners – one student, one family, one success at a time. Check out the work of RSD students and staff in the music video below!
Deaf Friendly ROC contains resources designed to better serve this critical community. The Rochester area is home to one of - if not the largest - per capita populations of deaf and hard of hearing people in America. This page contains resources designed to better serve this critical community.
The Pittsford Central PTSA DEI Committee seeks to celebrate ALL residents and truly value diversity and inclusion. We emphasize that our differences truly make us better. We know that it is essential to create welcoming schools and classrooms where differences in language, culture, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, unique abilities, etc., are viewed as assets rather than deficits. An awareness and acceptance of these differences are foundational to the success of all students.
As a small group of volunteers, we acknowledge we may be incomplete in our coverage of this topic. For that reason - we welcome you to contact us with suggestions and additions regarding any of this material, you may reach the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee via our feedback form. We can add more to our posts throughout the month and plan to build on this material in future years.
Pittsford Central PTSA, NYSPTA and National PTA Resources
Pittsford Central School District and Monroe County Resources
Indigenous Land Acknowledgement
We acknowledge the Seneca people as the traditional custodians of the land that we are on and for their enduring presence. We would also like to pay respects to Elders past and present of the Hodinöhsö:ni' Confederacy, and we extend that respect to any other indigenous people who are present with us today. We make this acknowledgment as a first step in fulfilling our responsibility to critically look at colonial histories and their present-day implications as we pay respect to the keepers of the land, and the land itself. We are aware that acknowledgment is not reparation, and land acknowledgment without active steps towards education, support of the Seneca Nation, and sincere efforts to undo colonial legacies means very little.