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The idea of Deafhood Foundation was sparked in 2007 when a group of concerned Deaf activists met in the San Francisco Bay Area. They were inspired by a book first published in Bristol, England: “Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood” by Dr. Paddy Ladd (2003). This group took the time to examine and re-frame the political, economic, and ideological powers surrounding the Deaf communities, after being educated about structures of systemic oppression. This group of passionate individuals, filled with expertise in economics, social justice, organizational development, Deaf culture, and American Sign Language, continued to work together through weekend retreats to expand on principles and dreams of a better world for Deaf people. As a result, Deafhood Foundation as an incorporated organization with a clear mission and goals was formed in 2009.

Starting in 2012, Deafhood Foundation began to provide classes and workshops all over the United States which had a tremendous impact on Deaf people and communities.  This began to light the fires of activism in pushing for "Nihil de nobis, sine nobis", latin for "Nothing About Us, Without Us" which communicates that no policy should be decided about us without the full and direct participation of Deaf people affected by said policy.


Answering, and agreeing, to the call that the contents of our class curriculum and presentation materials were "white-washed" as developed by white Deaf people, Deafhood Foundation received diversity training, hired Deaf BIPOC to make some fundamental changes to the curriculum, and contracted new class/ workshop facilitators who are BIPOC in 2019.  This is a process that will be continued, and improved upon, with welcomed feedback from Deaf community members. 

In 2022, due to the turbulent effects of the pandemic's impact on nonprofits worldwide, the Deafhood Foundation realized a need to combine resources with other organizations to improve organizational sustainability.  The Board decided that a merge into the Museum of Deaf History, Arts & Culture (MDHAC) would be the best fit which would greatly expand MDHAC's cultural program.  Thus, as of January 2023, all of Deafhood Foundation's programming will be continued as the Deafhood Institute, a program of MDHAC. 


The first gathering to create the Deafhood Foundation at Asilomar Conference Center, Pacific Grove, California in February 2007. Front: (l to r): Judy Gough and Ella Mae Lentz. Middle row (l to r): Colin Piotrowski, Danny Lacey, Marvin Miller, Kathy Say, Clark Brooke, Joey Baer. Back Row (l to r): Kevin Clark, Don Grushkin, Nancy Mitchell, David Eberwein, Butch Zein.


Since its inception as Deafhood Foundation, now Deafhood Institute, we have been making waves nationally by:​

  •  giving out grants ranging from $2,500 to $5,000,

  •  providing Deafhood 101 & 201 classes for Deaf people only,

  •  organizing Allies in Deafhood presentations,

  •  producing The Deafhood Monologues shows,

  •  hosting Deafhood Banquets,

  •  premiering a Deafhood Film Festival,

  •  starting an ASL translations of Dr. Paddy Ladd’s book, and

  •  introducing the idea of Deaf Economic Justice Indicator.

Heartfelt thanks to the generous support of our donors, volunteers, and community who cheered us on, for making all this possible! ❤️ 

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