Deaf History and Heritage


Deaf History and Heritage

National Deaf History Month was first recognized from March 13 - April 15, 1997 by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), in order to honor local community members who were deaf, hard of hearing, or experiencing hearing loss, while also highlighting the importance of inclusivity and accessibility. In 2006, the American Library Association partnered with NAD to support and spread awareness of Deaf History Month. Recently, NAD board members have chosen the month of April as the new National Deaf History Month (NDHM) as part of efforts to combat racism and include the experiences of BIPOC Deaf folks. (source: National Association of the Deaf)

2023 Events

Deaf Culture and History: Best Practices and Lessons Learned for Libraries and Educators
Thursday, April 13, 2023 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific Time

The SJSU School of Information hosted a free online symposium in celebration of Deaf history and culture. 

For more on this event, see our recap here.

Transcript here ( .PDF, .DOC)

Beth Wrenn-Estes Dr. Bobbie Sartin Long
Dr. Mary Bolin Joan Naturale
Dr. Rhonda Jennings-Arey Danica Rice
Harriet Wintermute

Past Symposia

EDI Symposium: Deaf Community

In April 2022, the SJSU iSchool hosted a symposium for Deaf History Month titled, “Deaf Community and Culture and Best Practices for Libraries.” Following the keynote address by Dr. Joan Naturale, the symposium panelists shared presentations on how libraries in their own cities have served and continue to serve d/Deaf community members through library programs.

Library and Information Science Best Practices

Throughout the following resources, you will note the shifting capitalization of ‘D’ in Deaf or lowercase ‘d’ in deaf. The choice to toggle between letter case, and the way in which one identifies along the spectrum of hearing loss, is deeply personal and varies from individual to individual. To embrace this spectrum of identity, the following text will express the community and culture as d/Deaf where applicable.

Best Practices from “Deaf Culture and History: Best Practices and Lessons Learned for Libraries and Educators.”

  • Don’t ask or expect someone to read lips and speak. Not all Deaf people will want to talk. Writing back and forth or using gestures can be helpful, but just know that not all Deaf people are comfortable with English. 
  • Deafness is communication, not a disability. 
  • Knowing even the tiniest bit of sign language can go a long way.
  • If you don’t know sign language, ask the person’s communication preferences. 
  • Be careful about incorporating ASL into storytime, especially if you’re not deeply involved in the community or do not have deep knowledge of the language. If you start modeling the wrong signs, it can do more harm than good. 

Best Practices from “Deaf Community and Culture and Best Practices for Librarians”:

  • Research your library’s collections to see what kind of materials they have that represent d/Deaf people. 
  • Be proactive and reach out to d/Deaf people in your communities. 
  • Understand that there are many facets to d/Deaf culture, and that there is no singular culture or community.
  • Think about collecting materials, resources, and books that may be of interest to your local d/Deaf community. 
  • Evaluate how accessible your libraries are to d/Deaf people.

Community Profiles

Professional Associations

National Association of the Deaf