||A Phone of Our Own
The Deaf Insurrection Against Ma Bell
Harry G. Lang
From Bent: A Journal of Cripgay Voices
Gay men who are deaf (and those who are blind) often seem set apart from the larger cripgay culture, one dominated by mobility impairment, broadly defined.
It is incumbent on us “others,” therefore, to pay attention to struggles and achievements that lie outside our customary perceptions. A Phone of Our Own takes us back to 1964, when fewer than one percent of the 85 million telephones in the US were used by deaf people. Three deaf men determined to create a phone that deaf people could use without hearing intermediaries. After much trial and error, they succeeded in adapting teletypewriters to read letters transmitted electronically. What they hadn't counted on was the telephone industry and the federal goverment denying them the use of their telephone lines.
After a struggle that united the entire deaf community, they won the right to access from both AT&T and the FCC. It was a communications revolution achieved by deaf people alone.
Harry G. Lang is Professor Emeritus at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology.