For over 300 years, the tiny island of Martha’s Vineyard, located off the coast of Massachusetts, was something of a Deaf utopia – not because it was the bastion of a strong Deaf culture, but because it was the home of a bilingual community of hearing and deaf people, where deaf islanders participated fully in all aspects of life. That’s because the small, self-contained society had a high incidence of deafness – in the town of Chilmark, 1 in 25 residents were born deaf. This led to all members of the society using Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (one of the seeds of modern ASL) alongside English.
Find out more in this great post from REDEAFINED: Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (Sign without Stigma).
Or check out Nora Groce’s remarkable book, Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha’s Vineyard (Harvard University Press, 1988).
It just goes to show: when communication is present, our differences no longer divide us.