How Did Bell Help the Deaf and Hard of Hearing?

Black and White sketch of a hand used in teaching the deaf community.

Although he is best known as the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell actually devoted much more of this life to helping people who were deaf or hard of hearing, especially children. Bell’s mother Eliza lost most of her hearing in the 1860s when Alec was a boy. He learned to speak close to […]

What Was Bell’s Relationship to Helen Keller?

In 1887, a newspaper editor in Alabama, Arthur Keller, was told he should put his deaf and blind daughter Helen, a “wild little creature” of six, into an asylum, as so often happened with deaf children in that era. Instead, Keller took his daughter to Washington to seek Bell’s help. Helen later recalled that, “You […]

What Devices Did Bell Invent to Help the Deaf?

​In 1879, Bell invented the audiometer to measure the amount of a person’s hearing loss. It was the first device designed to measure different levels of sound, and is the reason that sound is now measured in “decibels.” Bell long dreamed of an electronic way to help the deaf to hear, a vision that has […]

Was Bell Against Signing?

​No. He taught signing as a young teacher of the deaf, and sometimes signed with students including Helen Keller and with his wife Mabel, who was deaf. Bell’s last words in August 1922 were signed to Mabel. It’s important to remember that signing In Bell’s lifetime was not the sophisticated system that ASL is today. […]

How Are Signing and the Oral Method Different?

In his lifetime of work with the deaf, Bell hoped they could be as integrated as possible with the hearing world and emphasized speech therapy and lip reading for the deaf over signing. This became known as the “Oral Method,” as opposed to the Manual Method, which relied largely on signing. Bell was not dogmatic […]

Did Bell Discourage the Use of Sign Language?

No. Long before Bell was an inventor, he was a noted teacher of the deaf. Bell taught sign language as a young teacher of the deaf, and sometimes signed with his mother and later with his wife Mabel, who were both deaf. However, in Bell’s lifetime signing was not the sophisticated and complete language that American […]

Did Alexander Graham Bell Want to Restrict the Rights of Deaf People to Marry?

No. In an 1891 speech about heredity to a group of deaf students at what is now Gallaudet University in Washington, DC titled, Marriage, An Address To The Deaf, Bell was quick to note that “You yourselves are a part of a great world of hearing and speaking people. You are not a race distinct and apart, and […]

Would Bell be an advocate of the deaf today?

Yes. During his lifetime, Bell was a fierce and vocal advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing. As the son and husband of a deaf person and a teacher of people who are deaf or hard of hearing, Bell spent his entire life exploring the endless potential of hearing-impaired individuals. Bell would likely be […]

Was Bell a Proponent of Eugenics and the Practice of Human Engineering?

​No. Bell was not a proponent of human engineering. Bell had an interest in the burgeoning science of genetics and heredity stemming from the work of Charles Darwin, whose groundbreaking research was published in 1859. In November 1883, Bell presented a paper at a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences titled “Upon the Formation of […]