Google Doodle Saturday celebrates the 306th birth anniversary of Charles-Michel de l’Épée, who was also known as the ‘Father of the Deaf’. Born in Versailles in 1712, Épée, was a French educator who is credited to have established the first public school for the deaf. A son of an architect, he studied theology and law before devoting his life in service for the poor. His journey to serve people with impaired hearing began when he tutored two deaf sisters who lived in the slums of Paris and communicated through their own sign language.
Later, challenging the misconception that people with impaired hearing were incapable of learning, he developed a visual method that eventually became the blueprint for teaching the deaf. In the coming days, Épée’s method changed countless lives at a time when many deaf people were discriminated against.
In 1760, using the money acquired through inheritance, he established the Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets à Paris, a school for the deaf that was open to all.
Épée’s efforts were taken into notice by the French authorities as his school was granted government funding. The French National Assembly eventually recognised him as a “Benefactor of Humanity” and included the rights of deaf people under France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
His school remains open till day and is known as Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris.