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The death of a Deaf Activist

Barbara Kannapell died on August 11, 2021 in Washington, DC at the age of 83.

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According to the New York Times, as a CODA, Kannapell considered American Sign Language her native language and

made it her life’s work to empower deaf and hard-of-hearing people with a sense of identity and an appreciation for their own distinct culture ... Throughout her early schooling, Dr. Kannapell felt the sting of what is now known as audism — rejection of people who are deaf. At one school, she wrote in a 2011 open letter, the principal tried to make her say “United States.” When she was unable to do so, the principal slapped her face.

Kannapell attended the Kentucky School for the Deaf and graduated from the Indiana School for the Deaf. She earned a bachelor’s degree in deaf education from Gallaudet University in 1961 and became the first deaf person at Georgetown University to earn a Ph.D. in sociolinguistics (the study of a society’s effect on language). After graduating from Gallaudet, she began a four-decade affiliation with the university. Kannapell served as co-founder and president of Deafpride, Inc. Read more about Kannapell at the Gallaudet website.

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