Founded in 1817 as the first permanent school for the deaf in the U.S., the American School for the Deaf (ASD) is the birthplace of American Sign Language and a national leader in providing comprehensive educational programs and services for deaf and hard of hearing students.
Among deaf schools, ASD is known as the "Mother School," providing an exemplary model educational program for the deaf community and serving as a springboard for trained and experienced educators in the field.
Though originally located in Hartford, ASD has been located on an expansive campus on North Main Street in West Hartford since 1919. Today, ASD provides comprehensive educational services to over 500 students worldwide through an array of on and off-campus programs, including their Core academic program, PACES Residential Treatment and Education Program, statewide Birth-to-Three program, Online Academy, and Camp Isola Bella summer camp in Salisbury.
ASD has never wavered in its mission to serve deaf and hard of hearing students—the school, its officials and its supporters also remain devoted to raising awareness about the needs of the Deaf community. That passionate advocacy received a major boost last year when ASD was awarded a $1 million grant to study and improve communication access among Connecticut’s deaf, hard of hearing and DeafBlind communities in educational and healthcare settings.
“This grant is providing ASD the opportunity to become a vital community resource,” explains ASD Executive Director Jeffrey S. Bravin. “Through this work, we hope to effect positive change throughout Connecticut.
The federal grant will help identify communication accessibility challenges for deaf, hard of hearing and DeafBlind communities. The grant also calls for state and regional partners, such as the CT Association of the Deaf, Hear Here Hartford, and the CT Hospital Association, to work with ASD on a systems-wide approach to identifying and improving communication access in healthcare and education settings.
“This grant will help us raise awareness about the obstacles the deaf, hard of hearing and DeafBlind encounter in healthcare settings,” Bravin said. “I’m challenging all presidents and CEOs of hospitals to sign a pledge to provide programs in their facilities that address our needs. I want them to be committed to improving communication access. We may be a small community, but we are a powerful community.”
The communication access problems became particularly acute during the pandemic, Bravin said. For instance, deaf patients who sought out medical care for Covid-19 often couldn’t understand what their health care providers were saying because they couldn’t read the lips of people wearing masks. While clear masks were available, many hospitals and clinics didn’t provide them, perhaps because they cost more, he noted.
“Is this about money or about life and death? We are trying to get the message out that it is time to treat the members of our community as equals.”
The need for greater access to in-person America Sign Language interpreters is also evident, and part of this grant will work toward increasing interpreting services in hospitals.
ASD is working to raise awareness about these critical issues through a comprehensive marketing campaign. Through the campaign, the school is communicating the important message that no one should be “lost in translation.” No one should feel they are the subject of conversation, yet invisible. Communication can be the difference between isolation and connection, and through this grant, ASD is working to identify and eliminate accessibility challenges facing Connecticut’s deaf, hard of hearing and DeafBlind communities in education and healthcare.
“ASD has been a trailblazer in the Deaf community for over two centuries,” said Bravin. “This grant represents a continuation of that legacy in a critical new direction, and we are honored to lead the way.”
American School For The Deaf
139 N Main St., West Hartford
On Facebook: @ASD1817
"We are trying to get the message out that it is time to treat the members of our community as equals.” Jeffrey S. Bravin