by Amber Howard
(Los Angles, CA)
I’d have to say that after reading this article, Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee is my favorite figure in Deaf history. He literally and figuratively opened the door for so many that society had written off. With all of the options available to us today, it’s hard to imagine a life so limited as it was for the Deaf at that time. L’Epee’s free schools for the Deaf is akin to what reading and writing were to African American slaves; A door to freedom or an opportunity to push the limits placed on them by societal norms of what was and wasn’t possible for the Deaf. His schools and his stance on the Deaf community was so powerful and profound, that it spread across Europe and beyond.
William Stokoe would be my second favorite figure in Deaf history. Thanks to arrogant efforts of Alexander Graham Bell, progress for the Deaf community was almost derailed. Due mainly because of the perseverance of the Deaf community to not let their language die, and the brilliance of Stokoe to prove the language’s validity once and for all, Deaf culture was given a more inclusive path into today’s society.
Language is EVERYTHING. It literally is what separates man from beast, this language validation was a major victory that might never have been were it not for forward thinking people like L’Epee.