Hearing Impairment Series-Disabled Legend Pierre Desloges

Pierre Desloges was born in 1747 in the Touraine region of France, Pierre moved to Paris as a young man, where he became a bookbinder and upholsterer. Pierre was deafened at the age of 7 from smallpox, but did not learn to sign until he was 27, when he was taught by a deaf Italian.

Pierre also wrote a number of well-received political books around the time of the French Revolution. Pierre was the 1st deaf person ever known to write a book of any kind.

In 1779, he wrote what may be the first book published by a deaf person, in which he advocated for the use of sign language in deaf education. It was in part a rebuttal of the views of Abbé Claude-François Deschamps de Champloiseau, who had published a book arguing against the use of signs. Pierre explained, “like a Frenchman who sees his language belittled by a German who only knows a few French words, I thought I was obliged to defend my language against the false charges of this author.” Pierre describes a community of deaf people using a sign language (now referred to as Old French Sign Language), many of whom would have no knowledge of spoken or written French.

The Abbe de l’Epee and his Paris school have often been credited with the invention of sign language, and deaf schools (especially residential ones) have been seen as the site of transference of sign languages from one generation to the next. Pierre’s book proves that French Sign Language predates deaf schools and is truly the invention of deaf people.

Pierre also wrote a number of well-received political books around the time of the French Revolution. The time and place of his death are unknown, but he published a book as late as 1792. Some suggest he died in 1799.

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