Frances Parsons, known to friends around the world as Peggie, was hit by a car and died yesterday. Peggie’s life was long and remarkable: she was instrumental in establishing the Deaf Peace Corps, she travelled around the world many times teaching and promoting deaf education, wrote several books and worked for many years at Gallaudet University.
Peggie first visited Trinidad in 1975 to teach American Sign Language, signed English and Total Communication, an approach to deaf education which emphasizes the use of all possible methods of communication, including speech, lipreading and, crucially, sign language. Before her visit, teaching at the schools for the Deaf was strictly oralist, that is, the deaf children were forced to try to speak and make use of their residual hearing, and signing was banned. This approach was failing deaf children badly, and denying them access to education in an accessible, visual language.
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