Due to inherited deafness, 1 in 25 people, in Martha’s Vineyard, were deaf by the 1850s – compared with a national US average of one in every 5,728 people.

Such circumstances meant that the islanders developed their own sophisticated sign language, used by both the D/deaf and the hearing.

And what we, at Heady Mix, found amazing was that D/deaf people weren’t considered disabled. They were completely integrated into island life. They owned farms, ran businesses and served in the town’s government.

It makes us wonder, why isn’t life like that everywhere?


Check out the video below by Rogan Shannon, who describes himself as a ‘queer deaf guy interested in many things’. Amongst those interests, he likes to share information about sign language linguistics and ASL lessons. Here, he gives a rundown on the history of the D/deaf community in Martha’s Vineyard.

For a more detailed historical account, check out the video below that traces the path of Martha’s Vineyard’s hereditary D/deaf to Kent, England.