As May winds down, another rendition of Better Hearing and Speech Month is about to be in the books. While it is important that hearing loss awareness receives national recognition on the calendar, it takes more than 31 days to spread the word on auditory impairment. One institution that is dedicated to expanding the minds and furthering the careers of those with hearing loss is Gallaudet University, a college that has been dedicated to providing higher education to those hard of hearing. Here is a brief history of Gallaudet University, and how it has forever changed the lives of its auditory impaired students, as well as the overall awareness of the issue for the entire country.

The beginning
In 1856, Amos Kendall was already a man held to the highest regard of respect for his services as a lawyer, journalist and his time spent serving as the 8th Postmaster General in the United States. Having served on the staffs of two presidents, assisting in crafting the democratic party into one of the biggest political platforms in the nation and even aiding in the establishment of the telegraph, Kendall was still not satisfied. His relentlessness stemmed from his sudden awareness that several deaf and hard of hearing children in his home city of Washington, D.C., were not receiving a proper education due to their auditory conditions.

It was that same year that Kendall decided to donate two acres of his private estate to build what would eventually become the foundation of Gallaudet University, the country’s first school dedicated to advancing the education for Americans with hearing loss. Within the next several years, the institution was provided with the authorization to officially hand out college degrees, and to this day, the first earned diplomas awarded to three hard of hearing students hang framed in the Gallaudet main office, with each one signed by President Ulysses S. Grant.

Over the next century, Gallaudet University flourished into an establishment with nearly 2,000 undergraduates enrolled, almost 500 postgraduates registered and an administrative staff of just under 300. Regarded as the one of the world’s leading institutions for educational pursuits and paths toward career development for individuals who are hard of hearing, Gallaudet University offers a wide range of classes, programs and activities catered toward hearing impaired students who wish to make a difference.

There are more than 40 different majors for hearing loss students to choose from at Gallaudet University, and the variety of programs is vast and accommodating, with available areas to study including:

  • Arts/media
  • Language/culture
  • Business
  • Humanities
  • Human services
  • Science/math/technology, and much more

There is even a growing athletic department at Gallaudet, more than a dozen different athletic programs for both men and women students to get involved in or receive scholarships for. Gallaudet is currently a member of the NCAA Division III, and is involved with the North Eastern Athletic Conference for most of their sport programs except football, which is associated with the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference. Other sports available at Gallaudet University include basketball, baseball and volleyball for both men and women.

Moving forward
For more than 150 years, Gallaudet University has provided aspiring individuals with hearing loss with an opportunity to obtain an education necessary to propel their dreams and goals forward. The college has seen the likes of undergraduates go on to become successful poets, actors and political activists for their community. While other schools provide accommodation for auditory impaired students, without Gallaudet’s progression, awareness for hearing loss in public universities could not be where it is today.

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