This book brings about the history of the deaf people in the United States in the nineteenth century and the developments that it underwent in recognition of the importance of language as a mode of communication in a way that is not only understood by the English speakers but one that also cuts across the broader spectrum of communication development and its impact both social and more fundamentally the work environment. Though little according to the book is known about the non white deaf people in the United States, a major irony is drawn from this since this was a time after colonization with several blacks and Hispanics already settled in major parts of America. (John, 1996)
This unique book has its focus on the Deaf community during the period of the nineteenth century largely through schools meant for the deaf. The scholars coin their story chronologically and thematically from the 1500s, passing through the various levels of industrial and social development amongst western society. “They portray the attitudes and approaches to the deaf community and shine their specific spotlight on the growing consciousness of the deaf as a coherent community over the last 200 years”. Thereafter, this people began to develop some sense of community and perhaps a common language. A Place of Their Own as is referred to by the author brings the perspective of historical aspects and their bearing on the reality of deafness and goes further to provide fresh and significant insight into the lives of Deaf Americans. (Lennard, 2006)
It is an appreciation of names, institutions and dates, developed against the broader spectrum of world deaf education (Gallaudet University, whose press published the book, having a commendable history of practical deaf education and its advocacy in the United States and, therefore, serving as the best example of such institutions. The name “Gallaudet” is from one member of the venerable family who was also the pioneer of deaf education in the US. The university is currently a world leader in issues, education and resources for the Deaf community) the numerous documents the development of socio-political factors involved in the position of the population of the deaf within the general population in the US and Europe.
The use of sign language was first developed by the French and later introduced in America with modifications for English. The author in his work tries to bring out in detail its progress from France and its wider improvement in Britain by the Frenchman Cleric and its designed crossing over the Atlantic in the early institutions established in the United States. (Douglas, 1996)
An emerging approach steadily dominated Europe, however, focused on making the deaf competent in both oral speech and “speech-reading” in order to enable their participation in the broader society. Though the approach did not succeed in practical cases, it came to be advocated for by hearing persons who were involved in education of the deaf, and became a stronger adversary of the sign language as a communication medium by not only providing the means but also an avenue for further discussions of the topic in question.
The advocates of the “oralism” perspective wanted to ensure deaf people “became normal” and participate fully in the broader society. Contrastingly, there was also a strong early development and management of the associations of the deaf and the self serviced deaf persons which in many peoples perspective were rather discriminative. The oralism movement was rather popular in certain regions, notable in Nebraska, where for some notable length of time; sign language education was practically prohibited by law in many state educational institutions. In Europe, it (oralism) prevailed until more recently. (John, 1996)
From the bibliography, one can notably argue with limited doubt that the author is not only interested in the significant contribution of the deaf to the society but also on the improvement of such and depending on his emotions others would portray him as an activist for the right of the deaf. The argument for his champion of such rights is based on how he describes the life of the deaf, “the “oralism” approach wanted to enable deaf persons to “become normal” and fully participate in the broader society”. According to this statement, one can tell that he believes they are normal and any attempt to improve their lives is just an induction procedure and not one meant for conversion, he perceives them to be normal people with the ability though limited.
He writes in the bibliography that, “it (the book) views deafness, not from the perspective of pathology, but of culture, not as a disease or a disability to be overcome but as a distinguishing feature of a distinct community of individuals whose history and achievement are worthy of study” as a summary, he adds that. A Place of Their Own brings history to bear on the reality to deafness and provides fresh and important insight into the lives of deaf Americans. (Douglas, 1996)
Douglas, C. (1996). Forbidden signs: American culture and campaign againist sign language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
John, V. (1996). Aplace of their own: creating the deaf community in America. New York: Gallaudet University Press.
Lennard, J. (2006). The disability studies reader. New York: Ruotledge.