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'Deaf by God' tried in Old Bailey records
Date:5/5/2008

the setting up of formal education. In parallel with this, court proceedings changed: with no requirement that defendants be able to understand the proceedings or evidence against them, interpreters were no longer sworn in, and they were not described as interpreters. Deaf defendants who were unable to submit written testimony may have been considered not to have full access to a language; those who had not been educated would have communicated through gestures or home signs; thus, their status may have declined paradoxically as opportunities for education increased.

Professor Bencie Woll, Director of the UCL Deafness, Cognition and Language Research (DCAL) Centre says: With the release of Old Bailey records online, we have been able to explore the treatment of deaf and dumb people by the legal system in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many of the issues raised are pertinent today, including finding interpreters for signing deaf people in the courts. In many cases, family and friends were used as well as employers (masters to deaf servants). Later, we see teachers from the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, founded in 1792, being brought in to communicate in the courts.

The central criminal court appears to have had quite an enlightened view, even though there is little evidence that these people "dumb by the visitation of god" were using a fully fledged sign language. The court usually held no objections to signing, gesturing and motioning, provided that this could be interpreted to the satisfaction of the jury.

This rationale still operates largely today, where people are brought in to interpret for deaf people without necessarily being qualified or registered with a professional body.

British Sign Language can trace its roots to the creation of formal deaf education, the irony being that as deaf children received greater education and as BSL became a full language, the status of deaf and dumb people appears to have dec
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Contact: Jenny Gimpel
44-077-475-65056
University College London
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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