Emily Howlett: Five famous deaf people you should know about

Posted on April 17, 2015

Think Deaf People Can’t Achieve? Think Again.

There’s rather a lot going on in British politics right now, and not just the upcoming election. It seems as though attitudes towards Deaf and disabled people are creating a lot of uproar and confusion…

So, it seems like the perfect time to have a look at some of the things Deaf people can achieve, if we are allowed to flourish.

And, damn, there’s a lot of achievement going on. Like, A LOT. Past and present. Here’s a teeny tiny sample to whet your appetite…

Pierre Desloges – Born in 1747 – 1799


Desloges was a French bookbinder and upholsterer, who was became deaf as a result of contracting smallpox as a young child.

He struggled to communicate until the age of 27, when he met a deaf Italian and discovered sign language.

He is believed to be the first deaf person to become a published author, and went on to write several political books, many concerning the French Revlution.

Gertrude Ederle- (1906 – 2003)


Ederle was an American competitive swimmer, who trained at the prestigious Women’s Swimming Association from the age of 15.

In 1926, she became the first woman to swim across the English Channel. She went on to break and establish more amateur records than any other woman in the world.

Ederle had poor hearing since childhood due to measles, and by the 1940s she was completely deaf. She spent the rest of her life teaching swimming to deaf children.

Dame Evelyn Glennie – (1965) 


Glennie is a Scottish virtuoso percussionist, and is thought to have been the first full-time solo professional percussionist in 20th century western society.

Glennie tours extensively and also works with an extraordinarily wide variety of orchestras and contemporary musicians. She performs over 100 concerts a year, as well as master classes and ‘music in schools’ performances.

Glennie has been profoundly deaf since age 12, and usually plays with bare feet, to better “feel” the music.

Ryan Adams – (1974)


Adams is an American alt-country/rock singer-songwriter from Jacksonville, North Carolina.

After performing with different bands, he made his solo debut in 2000, with ‘Heartbreaker’. As his career has progressed, he has developed a style more reminiscent of folk music.

Adams has Ménière’s disease, and his 2012 album was entitled ‘Live After Deaf’, in reference to his triumphant return after symptoms forced him to take a break from performing.

Louis Long – (The Silent Warrior) – (1976)


Long is an American professional wrestler, who’s masked alter-ego is called The Silent Warrior.

He says his grandfather was his inspiration; taking him to watch wrestling and teaching him some of the most important things in life – to overcome what others think, to buckle down and focus on schoolwork and to love wrestling.

Long made his debut in November 2010, and went on to become founder of the Deaf Wrestling Alliance. The Silent Warrior has never been unmasked in the ring.

Emily Howlett is a Contributing Editor to this site. She is a profoundly Deaf actress, writer and teacher. Emily is co-director of PAD Productions and makes an awful lot of tea. And mess. She now has not one, but four grey eyebrow hairs. C’est la vie. She tweets as @ehowlett

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