A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Commission on Deaf and Hard of Hearing to recognize deaf champions, community’s rich history

The Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (KCDHH) urges everyone to celebrate National Deaf History Month, March 13 – April 15, by recognizing deaf champions and increasing awareness of the deaf community’s rich history.

Gerry Gordon-Brown

One of Kentucky’s champions, Gerry Gordon-Brown, a black woman with a profound hearing loss, was a student at Kentucky State College at the time of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1964 visit. She was one of several thousand who marched in support of civil rights in the state.

That day helped springboard Brown into a life of advocacy for minorities, including people with disabilities. For her dedication to the mission of promoting equal rights, Brown was inducted into the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights in 2007. She presently serves as a commissioner with the KCDHH.

“We’re proud to have leaders like Gerry Gordon-Brown in our state, working tirelessly in support of the Americans with Disabilities Act and civil rights, and we are equally proud of all individuals who have helped advance the cause of equal rights for the deaf and hard of hearing,” said Virginia L. Moore, KCDHH executive director. “KCDHH encourages all Kentuckians to reach out to their communities and learn more about people like Gerry who are leaders in the deaf and hard of hearing community.”

KCDHH celebrates its own champion in Blake Noland, the agency’s information coordinator. As a deaf young man who was mainstreamed in Jefferson County Public Schools, Noland attended his first DeaFestival as a middle school student and was able to discover his own identity as a deaf American Sign Language (ASL) user. He went on to carve out his own goals, graduating from Gallaudet University and becoming an employee of KCDHH. 

Deaf History Month spotlights the following three iconic events in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community that happened from March 15 – April 15: 

• March 13, 1988: victory of the Deaf President Now movement when students at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the nation’s only liberal arts college for deaf students, staged a protest demanding a deaf president for the university; 
• April 8, 1864: signing of the Gallaudet University charter by President Abraham Lincoln; and 
• April 15, 1817: establishment of American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, as the first permanent public school for the deaf.

Each of these events represents significant advancements for deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the United States. The establishment of the American School for the Deaf was the beginning of a long, proud tradition of schools for the deaf in this country, which continues to this day.
For more information on deaf culture and history, visit the KCDHH website.

The Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, serves the nearly 700,000 Kentuckians who have a hearing loss and provides information, referral and advocacy services and produces the biennial DeaFestival-Kentucky.

From KCDHH Communications

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