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Deaf History

1817 The American School for the Deaf, the first permanent school for the deaf (K-12) in the United States, is established in West Hartford, Connecticut.
1856 Gallaudet University, the first college in the world for the deaf and hard of hearing, is established in Washington, DC.
1964 Robert Weitbrecht develops an acoustic coupler that allows the use of the telephone with the teletypewriter (TTY), enabling deaf people to use the phone lines to call each other and type out their conversations.
1965 The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) becomes a college of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, New York.
1967 The National Theater for the Deaf (NTD) is established in White Plains, New York.
1974 The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) conducts a census of Deaf Americans, recording a population of 13.4 million hearing Americans and 1.8 million deaf Americans.
1985 Cochlear implants are approved for clinical testing for people ages 18 and up.
1987 On March 30, actress Marlee Matlin receives the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Children of a Lesser God, making her the first deaf actress to receive an Academy Award.
1988 Students and faculty at Gallaudet University protest the Board of Trustees' selection of a hearing person, Dr. Elisabeth Zinser, as the University's new president. The Deaf President Now Protest (DPN) continues for one week, ending with Zinser's resignation, the selection of I. King Jordan as the first deaf president of the University, and a reconstitution of the Board to ensure a 51% majority of deaf members.
1990 The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is passed on July 26, prohibiting discrimination based on disability. Among other stipulations, the Act requires greater access to communication services and educational and employment opportunities for the deaf and hard of hearing.
1995 Heather Whitestone wins the Miss America Pageant, making her the first deaf Miss America title holder.

The use of cochlear implants increases. People age 2 and up with severe to profound hearing loss are now candidates for the implants. Some 12,000 candidates have been implanted for a cost of $40,000. An increasing number of parents opt for cochlear implants and mainstreamed education as an educational plan for deaf children. The latest technological advances to the implants are the Nucleus 22 device and SPEAK Speech Processing System (developed at the University of Melbourne, Australia).
1996 Mr. Hollandís Opus is released in theaters. The film stars Richard Dryfus as a music teacher who must learn to understand his deaf son.
1998 The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) releases new captioning rules for the broadcast and cable television industry. The rules require 100% of cable television to be captioned within eight years and require real-time captioning for many local news programs.
2000 Deaf athlete Christy Smith competes on the CBS reality show Survivor: The Amazon. The other contestants are not told in advance that Smith is deaf.
2006 The FDA approves cochlear implants for people as young as 12 months of age.
2011 Switched at Birth premiers on ABC Family. The television series features several deaf actors.

The Hammer, a biographical film about deaf wrestler and MMA fighter Matt Hamill, is released in select theatres across the country.

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