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Alexander Graham Bell and His Work With the Deaf If you live in America, you have probably heard the name Alexander Graham Bell before. Children are required to learn about Alexander Graham Bell in grade school. Most history teachers only focus on Alexander Graham’s Bell invention of the telephone. However, there is much more to the story of Alexander Graham Bell’s life and ambitions.

Bell’s Work with the Deaf One of Bell’s main focuses was focused on the deaf. He was very curious as a boy, always experimenting with inventions and the like. When Bell was 12, his mother started to lose her hearing. This could explain why Bell decided to focus so much on helping the deaf. When his mother was losing her hearing, Bell learned a manual finger language so he could sit next to his mother and tap out the conversations that were going on around them. He also learned how to speak in modulated tones right next to her forehead, so she could hear him better. Bell’s father was also very involved in working with the deaf. Bell’s father learned and taught Visible Speech to deaf people. Visible Speech was a form of notated speech that was designed to help the deaf learn how to speak. The notation consisted of symbols that showed a person the position and movement of the tongue, lips, and throat while they were speaking. Alexander Bell became very proficient in reading and understanding Visible Speech, and travelled with his father to demonstrate its effectiveness. Alexander would later go on to work extensively with the deaf. In 1872, Alexander opened a school in Boston called “School of Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech.” Many deaf students were attracted to this school. Alexander had around 30 students in his first class at his new school. One of his more renowned students was Helen Keller herself, who believed that Alexander was very dedicated to helping the deaf.

Changing the Way We Look at Deafness At the time, there were many individuals who believed that deafness was a disease that ought to be eradicated. These people believed that deafness was a disorder and a problem, and people would be better off if they weren’t deaf.

Alexander Bell was a proponent of this school of light. One of Alexander Bell’s main theories in regards to the deaf was that sign language should not be used. He believed that deaf people should be taught how to speak, and that would be the only way that they could successfully integrate into regular society. Because of his stance on this issue, many deaf people today have a very negative opinion of Alexander Bell. Deaf people are very defensive of sign language. Many of them are grateful to be deaf; they feel that it defines them and makes them who they are. Although sign language is in wide use today, there are some situations in where sign language cannot be used. One such situation is on the telephone. Because of this, a telephone called a captioned telephone has been invented. This makes it so deaf and hard of hearing individuals can call each other and read what the other person is saying through the captioned telephone. The use of a captioned telephone makes communication for the deaf and hard of hearing much simpler and easier.

Alexander Graham Bell and His Work With the Deaf  
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