Deaf and Hearing Loss

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Getting a precise figure for the number of deaf and hard of hearing residents in the Pioneer Valley is impossible. But the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing suggests multiplying a town’s population by the national average of 8.6 percent to get an estimate; Northampton’s population of approximately 28,000, therefore, suggests that about 2,000 residents are deaf or hard of hearing. Given that the city is the home of the internationally known Clarke School for the Deaf / Center for Oral Education, which was founded here in 1867, it’s likely that number is considerably higher.

This study guide offers an introduction to some of the issues faced by the deaf and hard of hearing, and some of the services available to them, their families, and their communities. It gives a general overview of websites both local and national for those interested in deaf culture, and it also suggests memoirs and other books about the deaf community, along with a selection of movies, all of which is available on CW/MARS.

This guide was created by Sasha Nyary, a graduate student in library science, in April 2010. She welcomes feedback; please email her at sashanyary[at] with suggestions and corrections.

General Reference

The Deaf Resource Library
Founded in 1995 by Yale anthropology professor Karen Nakamura, the Deaf Resource Library is a vast online collection of reference material and international links about deaf cultures in Japan and the United States, as well as deaf and hard of hearing-related topics. The extensive list of deaf-related links includes topics such as organizations, schools, kids, churches, interpreting, lesbian and gay, magazines, catalogs, and deaf-blind, as well as scholarly resources such as linguistics and sociolinguistics of sign language.

The savvy consumer's guide to hearing loss
by Karen Rockow
Published by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, this popular book, written by a woman with adult hearing loss, is now available in PDF format on this site. The focus is on those transitioning from hearing to deaf or severely hard of hearing, and those who work with them, and for their family, friends and colleagues. Topics include the impact of deafness, where to turn for help, helping yourself, communications skills and options, assistive technology, real life coping, and other services.

Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
The central state agency in Massachusetts that provides information, referrals, public education, and many specialized services for deaf, oral deaf, late-deafened, and hard of hearing people. The link about ASL offers this thorough overview on selecting a sign language class, and also pages about teachers, interpreters in Massachusetts, and other sign language resources.

Gallaudet University Press
An extensive list of publications from Gallaudet University for the deaf and hard of hearing. The GU Press publishes new or revised books about the university and the deaf community.

Hearing Loss Association of America
The mission of the HLAA is to provide assistance and resources for people with hearing loss and their families to learn how to adjust to living with hearing loss. It works through public policy and research to eradicate the stigma about hearing loss and to raise public awareness about the need for prevention and the importance of regular hearing screenings.

National Association of the Deaf
The nonprofit NAD was founded in 1880 and shaped by deaf leaders. Its original focus on ASL as a legitimate language and essential tool for deaf children and adults remains a core belief.

Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech
Founded in 1867 and recently renamed, the Clarke School was the first permanent oral school for the deaf in this country and has an international reputation as a pioneer and a leader in the field of auditory/oral education and the importance of mainstreaming. As its mission states, “Families choose Clarke School because they want their child with hearing loss to learn to listen and talk. Parents see Clarke School as a place where their child can build an auditory/oral foundation that will lead to a lifetime of independence.” State-of-the art equipment helps the school’s audiologists assist children with personal hearing aids, FM systems, and cochlear implants.

ASL info
A comprehensive site by an interpreter that gives information about ASL, interpreting, and Deaf culture. The resources page includes lists of sign dictionaries, CD-ROMS, videos, and deaf-themed movies and documentaries.

Local community programs and services

Community Enterprises Programs and Services
This nonprofit organization offers community-based employment, housing, and education services to the disabled, including the deaf and hard of hearing, in Western Massachusetts, through a regional network of 15 offices. It strives to support its clientele to live and work independently wherever possible.

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
This is the department’s Special Education sub-page for the deaf and hard of hearing. It includes links for public and private schools in the state and in New England, as well as a list of state and national organizations and resources.

Stavros Advocates for Independent Living
Stavros’ Deaf and Hard of Hearing Independent Living Services program provides services for deaf and hard of hearing people looking for full communication access at home, work, school, and in the community. This program is in the organization’s Springfield office but is available to any resident of Franklin, Hampshire or Hampden counties. Stavros also offers events for the deaf community, and the site includes links to other resources.

Accessing Safety
This Accessing Safety Initiative is funded by the federal Office on Violence Against Women to help organizations and communities meet the needs of women with disabilities, including the deaf, who are victims or survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Its pages include entries on understanding in general, disability, violence, and accessibility, and deaf culture, specifically, as well as how to create change.

Deaf Culture

According to Wikipedia, Deaf culture is a “term applied to the social movement that holds deafness to be a difference in human experience rather than a disability. When used in the cultural sense, the word deaf is very often capitalized in writing, and referred to as “big D Deaf” in speech.” These websites seek to elucidate on this issue.

Accessing Safety
This Accessing Safety Initiative is funded by the federal Office on Violence Against Women to help organizations and communities meet the needs of women with disabilities, including the deaf, who are victims or survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This link on understanding deaf culture is a good brief overview.

Deaf culture online
With the overall goal of promoting awareness of Deaf culture, this website tries provide a variety of perspectives on the deaf and hard of hearing experience. Topics include American Sign Language and baby sign, parent resources, deaf and hard of hearing, current trends, communication preferences, and stress management / wellness. The writer is generally opposed to cochlear implants, and in the entry on Deaf culture, concludes that “Deafness is a disability that is so unique, its very nature causes a culture to emerge from it. Participation in this culture is voluntary.”

“Deafness is not a disability” (argumentum ad consequentiam)
This blog entry discusses the deafness as a disability controversy, and rejects the view that cochlear implants are an attempt to fix something that isn’t broken. The writer concludes that “From an evolutionary point of view, this position is almost impossible to maintain.”

Inside deaf culture
This site seeks to provide resources for beginners to the issues of being deaf or hard of hearing, including those who are recently deafened, learning to sign, or want to learn more about the Deaf community. It includes lists of definitions, languages, and misconceptions about the deaf.


Materials unavailable at Forbes can be accessed through C/WMARS.

Through deaf eyes
A PBS history of 200 years of deaf culture, presented with a broad range of perspectives. Includes the story of the creation of schools for the deaf, the American Sign Language debate, how the TTY came to be, and the fight for a deaf president at Gallaudet University.

Sound and fury
This award-winning documentary tells the story of three generations of deaf and hearing family members and their conflicted feelings about technological devices that can help the deaf to hear, but also threatens their culture and family bonds. The movie’s tagline is, “If you could make your deaf children hear, would you?” The answer isn’t as simple as it might appear.

Mr. Holland’s Opus
The story of several decades in the life of a professional musician (Richard Dreyfuss), who takes a job at a local high school in order to have more time to compose. After the musician’s newborn son turns out to be deaf, one of the subplots becomes the family debate about how best to teach the child to communicate, manually or orally.

See what I’m saying
A half hour award-winning documentary that follows a four-year-old deaf girl’s struggle to learn to communicate.

Children of a Lesser God
William Hurt is a new unorthodox teacher at a school for the deaf who falls in love with Marlee Matlin (winning an Oscar for her performance), a rebellious student who has remained at the school after finishing, rather than move on. She refuses to read his lips and will only sign.

Miracle Worker
The classic story of how Anne Sullivan (Anne Bancroft) taught Helen Keller (Patty Duke, winning an Oscar for her performance) to communicate. Two newer versions are also available, one released in 1979 and starring Patty Duke and Melissa Gilbert, and one produced by Disney in 2001.


Deaf and hard of hearing students have both public and private school options. This is a list of schools in Massachusetts, plus three others in nearby states, that are dedicated to this population.

Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech
Northampton, Massachusetts

Willie Ross School for the Deaf
Longmeadow, Massachusetts

The Learning Center for Deaf Children
Framingham, Massachusetts

Beverly School for the Deaf
Beverly, Massachusetts

EDCO Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Newton, Massachusetts

Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Brattleboro, Vermont

American School for the Deaf
West Hartford, Connecticut

Rhode Island School for the Deaf
Providence Rhode Island

Page last changed: March 08, 2013, at 02:39 PM EST.