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American Sign Language: Deaf History

(5) Also see: History 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8


Charles Blake Heisler

A Time-Line of Deaf History

    This Time-Line at its inception is of course in theory for I do not pretend to know when Man first had an ear from which to hear or not.  In fact, even today many do not have an ear which hears although they'd take issue.  What is not theory or hypothesized is the earliest accounts of hurtful words used to describe the deaf community.  Supposedly Enlightened men imposing their rule or ideology against people who lacked one of the five physical senses.  Situations where Jewish Law stood in the way of a deaf man owning property because of a skewed view of Gods Word.  Instances of Classical Greek philosophers questioning the intelligence of deaf people because of their lack of Oral Language.  Add to these the notion of demonic intervention causing the deafness or God pouring out His Wrath upon the offspring of sinful parents and one can easliy see why this world is as it is.  Now on a much brighter note I can point to positive gains that the deaf community has experienced even though most would be considered only recent in the overall scheme.  In the 1750's, Charles Mechel De L'Eppe a Priest (Bridgebuilder), established an association for the deaf of Paris.  He went on to establish a free public school for the deaf in (1771) and later compiled a dictionary of Signs in (1788).  In (1816) Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet toured Europe studying deaf culture and education and met Laurent Clerc.  Clerc was a student under De L'Eppee and Abbe Sicard.  Gallaudet and Clerc co-founded the American School for the Deaf.  In (1864) Gallaudet College was founded in Washington DC.  An interesting note here is that it would be in the year (1988) that the College would recieve its first Deaf President, I. King Jordan.  This actually took place as a result of a student uprising protesting the Hearing President that was in office.  In (1990) the American with Disabilities Act was passed which covered a wide range of issues, primarily discriminitive hiring practices against people with Disabilities.  In (1993) the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or (IDEA) was passed giving the Dept. of Education power to establish a policy where-by granting all disabled students the right to attend public schools and in a "least restrictive environment".  Of course there were many other positive influences aside from those I've mentioned which have led the Community to its present state.  Before I continue with the next phase of this paper I'd like to speak to not only my reader and or the Deaf Community, but to All!  Identity is crucial, in fact its the most important thing of all.  Knowing who you are and not letting the world and its agencies label you.  It seems these days that everyone answers to everything but their name.  Its always been the worlds way of controlling people, first it labels them and watches as they divide into the labeled groups.  Then once divided they're conquored.  Never let "them" pigeonhole You!  Examples are "senior citizen", a buzz political word which popped up in the 1980's.  Ask yourself does this make you and I "freshman" citizens or maybe "sophomore and junior citizens"?  How about the ever popular "victim" label.  Are we not ALL victims and do we not ALL share in affliction,  victims of ourselves afflicted by our carnal mind? 

    Okay, I mentioned another phase of my paper and it deals with what I now realize as what must be a barrier in the education sector of the Deaf Culture.  The ability of the men and women who wish to dedicate their lives to a career of helping Deaf students and Interpreting in a variety of settings to earn a decent wage.  Since my paper deals with a historical progression of Deaf Culture there seems to be one area which has not fared well and that is the earning potential of Interpreters.  My readings indicate that there is no set standard and ones credentials will bare more or less weight depending upon the State where he seeks employment.  There are member orginizations at the federal level such as the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) which have accredited credentials they offer upon completion of certain criteria.  However in some States neither are required.  I do believe however that this will soon change.  There is work in progress to combine the resources of RID and NAD and consolodate their certifications.  For an example of one States attempt to determine pay for Interpreters I'll share what has happened in Bibb County, Georgia.  Bibb County Public Schools salary schedule for ASL/English Interpreters.  The contract time is for 182 days and 8 hours per day.  An Interpreter with a state level credential in Interpreting and Transliterating but with no Bachelor's Degree can expect to earn in the range of $24,722.88 - $31,973.76 annually.  A Bachelor's Degree will earn an additional $1000.00 supplement.  An Interpreter with a Masters Degree will be granted an additional $2000.00.  A certificate of Interpretation by (RID) or a certificate of Transliteration will earn a $750.00 supplement.  If a Bachelors Degree is associated with the Interpreters and Transliterators certificate the $750.00 supplement will be accompanied by an additional $1000.00.  The beginning salary is based upon a range of $25,669.28 - $33,196.80.  The peak range is the Certificate of Interpretation and Certificate of Transliteration with a Masters Degree.  The range here is $29,658.72 - $38,251.04 (Elton 2002).  The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee prepared a "Salary Survey of Sign Language Interpreters in Post-Secondary Settings"(2000).  They list many Schools covering many States so I will include a sampling beginning with the University of Arizona.  Their salary range is $23.5 - $27.5K with the average salary being $26.5K based on a 10mo. contract. The University of Minnesota's salary range is $23 - $35.2K and both 10 and 12 month contracts are available.  Virginia Tech Universities salary range is from $31.6 - $36.9K and for a 12 month contract. In 1999, the U.S. Department of Labor published the following estimate for Interpreters and Translators.  The mean hourly wage was $14.16 and the annual wage being $29,450. I included the salary information in my paper and even though some of the salaries seem rather adequate, I believe they are the exception and not the rule.  A low salary and the ever increasing liability which goes with being an Interpreter I fear may discourage some people from this Profession.  The low pay however does not reflect the importance and reward that goes with this job.

(2003, April 29). Deaf Time-Line.  Retrieved 28, April 2003:

Govt. (1999) 1999 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates-Interpreters and Translators.  U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Retrieved 28, April 2003:

(2000, April). Salary Survey of Sign Language Interpreters in Post-Secondary Settings.  University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  Retrieved 27, April 2003:

Elton, Amy- BA, CI and CT. (2002, March). Georgia School System Establishes Equitable Salary Scale.  Lead Interpreter, Bibb County Public Schools.  Retrieved 27, April 2003.


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