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The world deaf history as it takes shape

Iftu Ahmed | May 05, 2018 00:00:00

In the modern era, there are many deaf heroes around the globe. Charles Jules Henry Nicole (1866-1936), Sir Charles Scott Sherrington (1857-1952) and Sir John Warcup Cornforth (1917-2013) are some of the finest examples for being the three deaf Nobel laureates in history. So deafness can't hold them back from greatness. It is a phenomenal truth.

In ancient times, wars were usual. Perhaps, there were no deaf heroes. So, deaf children were isolated. In ancient Greece and Rome, it was permissible to kill deaf children up to the age of three.

In 1000 BC, the Hebrew law protected the deaf from being cursed by others. But the practice was quite limited. Despite difficulties, a few miracles occurred on the lives of the deaf.

Greek philosopher Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), the teacher of philosopher Plato (424/423 BC-348/347 BC) is quoted in Plato's Cratylus (Dialogue) to have said so.

Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC), the student of Plato, said: "Those who are born-deaf become incapable of reason and senseless. That is why hearing is a requirement for understanding."

Jesus Christ (7/2 BC-26/36AD) took care of the people with disabilities. He healed the deaf, the mute, the blind and the sick, brought to him.

In 77 AD, Pliny the Elder (23 AD-79 AD), the Roman author, mentioned in his book, National History, Quintus Pedius, the Roman painter and the first deaf person to be recorded in history.

St. Augustine (354-430), the philosopher and theologian, used to believe that deafness is the obstruction to faith because faith comes through hearing. He also mentioned that the deaf people can learn faith through the use of bodily expressions, signs and gestures. But he did not mention the inner spiritual power of the deaf people. It has been proved that people with disabilities may have been disabled, but many of them are spiritually abled.

Prophet Muhammad (SM) (570-632) took special care of the people with disabilities by praying, listening, sharing, honouring, breaking isolation, forbidding mockery and removing hardships and difficulties.

Gerolamo Cardano (1501-1576), the Italian Renaissance mathematician, physician, astrologer and gambler who read Agricola's book and for the first time recognised first the ability of the deaf to reason, said: "The deaf need to learn, read and write." His views challenged Aristotle's.

Spanish Benedictine Monk Pedro Ponce de Leon (1520-1584) was known as "the first teacher for the deaf." He established the world's first deaf school at the San Salvador Monastery in Madrid, Spain. It is not known that whether de Leon developed sign language or not, but he developed a manual alphabet so that his students could spell out letter by letter any word. Thus he taught the deaf to speak, read and write. His two deaf students participated in the conversations with hearing people by lip reading and speaking.

In America, Dr. Mason Cogswell (1761-1830), the prominent physician of Hartford, Connecticut, was concerned about her daughter Alice Cogswell (1805-1830) who lost her hearing and became deaf at the age of 2. At that time, America lacked information on deaf education.

Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851), the American pioneer in education of the deaf met Dr. Mason and Alice. Alice by then was nine years old. Dr. Gallaudet taught her on an experimental basis.

Dr. Mason sent Dr.Gallaudet to London to learn how to teach the deaf. Dr. Gallaudet met Abbe Roch Sicard along with his two deaf faculty members, Jean Massieu (1772-1846) and Laurent Clerc (1785-1869) in London. Sicard invited Dr. Gallaudet to visit Paris to learn deaf education. Dr. Galludet went to France with them, stayed in their school for two months and took lessons on sign language.

Dr. Gallaudet sailed back to America accompanying Clerc from the French school. In 1817, the first American permanent School for the Deaf was established in Harford, Connecticut. Alice was the first student of Clerc. In America, Clerc's teaching modified and enlarged the French sign language. Clerc became the father of American Sign Language.

The Golden Era of deaf people began in America by establishing New York Institution of the Deaf and Dumb in 1818, Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in 1820, Kentucky School for the Deaf in 1823, the first state-supported school, and Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in

1839, integrating the first deaf and blind students. Later on, almost every state has a school for the deaf.

In 1864, Gallaudet College, the world's only federal chartered college for the deaf and hard of hearing students, was founded in Washington D.C. President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) signed the charter of Gallaudet College. In 1986, Gallaudet College transformed to Gallaudet University, the world's first and only university for the deaf and hard of hearing students and students who pursue careers related to deaf and hard of hearing people. The university was named after Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851).

In 12th century Bengal under Muslim rule, it was known that deaf-mute people had legal rights in the areas of bequests, marriage, divorce and financial transactions. They used to communicate habitually with intelligible signs.

In 1914, during the British rule, the first Dhaka deaf-mute school was established-the Lalbagh Deaf-Mute School.

In 1928, H. C. Banerjee, a well-known teacher taught sign language. He visited three residential schools for deaf and mute children in Dhaka, Barisal and Kolkata.

In 1931 and 1939, Rajshahi and Bogra Deaf-Mute Schools were established.

In 1940, the Dhaka Deaf-Mute Club was established by the students of Lalbagh Deaf-Mute School. Later, both Lalbagh Deaf-Mute School and Deaf-Mute Club were abolished.

In 1940 and 1943, Sylhet and Brahmanbaria Deaf-Mute Schools were established.

The then East Pakistan Federation of the Deaf-Mute, established in the house of a deaf member in Rajshahi in 1950, was short-lived.

In Bangladesh (formerly known as East Pakistan), late Ln M R Khan was anxious about his eldest son late Harunar Rashid Khan Harun who became deaf. At that time, Bangladesh had no proper deaf education. MR Khan sent his son to enroll at Calcutta Deaf-Mute School. It is the story like Dr. Mason and his daughter Alice in America.

Manzur Ahmed of Dhaka is also an ex-student of the Calcutta Deaf-Mute School. Late Bijoy Kumar Shaha, also a deaf person from Dhaka, organised the Dhaka Deaf-Mute Club. But it was not registered.

The East Pakistan Deaf-Mute Association was formed in 1963 and registered with the Social Welfare Directorate. Ln Mohiuddin Ahmad, a police officer, though not deaf himself, was elected its founding president, Ln MR Khan also not deaf was founding vice president and treasurer. Manzur Ahmed, who was deaf, was founding general secretary, Harunar Rashid Khan (deaf) founding Assistant Secretary and Bijoy Kumar Shaha, also deaf, was the founding assistant treasurer.

The association was established at one room of 12/1 Ramkrishna Mission Road residence of Ln MR Khan. In 1967, late Dr. MO Ghani, the then Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University, chaired a seminar and exhibition of the association. M. Osman Khaled, deaf-mute, the son of Dr. M. O. Ghani played a significant role with the association.

In 1969, the government allotted a plot of land at 62 Bijoynagar, Dhaka, to the association for establishing its office and institutions. In 1971, after the War of Independence, the association was renamed Bangladesh Jatiyo Muk o Badhir Sangha.

In 1975, the World Federation of the Deaf honoured Ln M. R. Khan and Manzur Ahmed with its International Solidarity Merit Awards.

In 1976, Bangladesh Jatiyo Muk o Badhir Sangha was renamed Bangladesh Jatiyo Badhir Sangstha or Bangladesh National Federation of the Deaf (BNFD).

Iftu Ahmed writes from Aurora, IL, USA

Email: [email protected]

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