FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 9, 2024) — In recognition of April as Deaf History Month, Team Kentucky and the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing are honoring the contributions of people in the deaf and hard of hearing community and raising awareness about the issues they face.

Deaf History Month commemorates important milestones that represent major progress for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, including the establishment of the first public school for the deaf in the United States in Hartford, Connecticut, on April 15, 1817. It also celebrates the founding of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., following the approval of its charter by President Abraham Lincoln on April 8, 1864.

“Throughout April, I encourage everyone to learn about important historical figures in the deaf community and their many contributions and accomplishments to enhance accessibility and improve communication for individuals with hearing loss,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “I believe my good friend and former commission director, the late Virginia Moore, would also encourage us to celebrate Deaf History Month by learning American Sign Language or by reaching out to one of the more than 700,000 Kentuckians who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Numerous deaf and hard of hearing individuals who have left their mark on American society are also recognized and celebrated during Deaf History Month. Vinton Gray “Vint” Cerf, an American computer scientist who is considered the co-father of the internet; Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA; and Marlee Matlin, an Academy Award winning actress, are just a few individuals whose contributions will be celebrated this month.

On the state level, Gerry Gordon-Brown was a student at Kentucky State College at the time of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 visit to Frankfort. Despite profound hearing loss, she was one of several thousand who marched in support of civil rights in the state, a day that led her into a lifetime of advocacy. In addition, Sandra Mae Frank, a Louisville native, has performed on Broadway and in numerous television series, recently portraying Dr. Wilder for several seasons on NBC’s New Amsterdam.

“We are proud to recognize the history and contributions of all deaf and hard of hearing individuals, especially those of our native Kentuckians,” said Anita Dowd, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. “Deaf History Month is an opportunity for all Kentuckians to learn more about hearing loss and its impact, and the importance of communication access for everyone.”

Dowd said Kentuckians can also take advantage of the Kentucky Commission on Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s free presentations, workshops and trainings for groups and offices that request them. Topics include employment, health care, the justice system, sensitivity training, advocacy and education, as well as workshops that can be tailored to the audience’s needs. Click here to see a list of the topics that are available.