KY School for the Deaf & Heuser Hearing & Language Academy

Options for Parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Kentucky

Parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing children in Kentucky have the option of sending their children to the Kentucky School for the Deaf, the Louisville Deaf Oral School, or local special education programs.

Kentucky School for the Deaf

History of Kentucky School for the Deaf

One of the oldest schools for the deaf is the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) in Danville. KSD was established in 1823 by the state legislature of Kentucky as the Kentucky Asylum for the Tuition of the Deaf and Dumb, then the name was changed later to Kentucky School for the Deaf.

The legislation was signed into effect on December 7, 1822. A state senator, the father of a deaf 19-year-old girl (Lucy Barbee), was behind the bill establishing KSD. Although it is not the first school for the deaf in the United States, KSD is the first state-supported school for the deaf.

Several books have been written about the history of KSD, including A Centennial History of the Kentucky School for the Deaf by Charles Paxton Fosdick. The entire book can be viewed online through the Kentuckiana Digital Library. Another, published in 1973, is the History of the Kentucky School for the Deaf, 1923-1973, compiled by James B. Beauchamp, and published by The KSD Alumni Association.

KSD has a museum housed in Jacobs Hall. Jacobs Hall includes a historical re-creation of a student dormitory and classroom from the 1850s. The building is a national historic landmark. The KSD website has a photograph of Jacobs Hall, and also (at the time the site was visited) a video of KSD's early years, produced by KSD students.

Jacobs Hall is believed to be named after John Adamson Jacobs, a young principal who worked at KSD for many years, and who is credited with getting the school in shape after it had a disastrous first year under two unqualified managers.

Additional historical resources include a Collection of Kentucky School for the Deaf, 1824-1919, housed at the Gallaudet University Archives.

This collection includes letters from Laurent Clerc and Thomas Gallaudet. The website The Scholarly Journal Archive (library access required) has an archived copy of the article A School for the Deaf in Kentucky, by Katherine I. Ellison, originally published in The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 18, No. 7 (Apr., 1918), pp. 538-540. Finally, the May 1998 issue of Deaf Life magazine had a cover story on KSD's 175th anniversary.

Challenges Facing Kentucky School for the Deaf

Many schools for the deaf in the United States have faced shrinking enrollments, and KSD is no exception. KSD's current enrollment is down to about 130 students (as of March 2007), and the school also faces budgetary challenges. The Advocate-Messenger had a serial on KSD's issues from March 4 to 7, 2007. Highlights of the serial:

  • KSD campus was and is being downsized based on a decision made in November 2004.
  • No money is being spent on buildings not intended as part of the future downsized KSD campus.
  • KSD has plans for a cochlear implant center.
    Present and Future Roles of the Kentucky School for the Deaf

    Today, KSD plays a role that is less "school for the deaf" and more "statewide educational resource center on deafness." The school continues to grant high school diplomas and offers residential living for students living outside of Boyle county in Kentucky. However, KSD's primary role today is as an overseer of sorts for deaf education throughout Kentucky.

    As a state resource center, KSD offers regional services in cooperation with local special education programs, a family support center for information and referrals to families with deaf and hard-of-hearing children, information on sign language classes, and family learning vacations. Their website includes a downloadable Statewide Family Support Center newsletter with advice and suggestions for families of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

    Alumni of Kentucky School for the Deaf

    KSD has an alumni association, the Kentucky School for the Deaf Alumni Association. The alumni association has its own website. The site includes local/regional social event information.

    Heuser Language and Speech Academy (formerly Louisville Deaf Oral School)

    The Heuser Hearing and Language Academy (LDOS) is based at the Heuser Hearing Institute in Louisville, Kentucky. It is the first and apparently is still the only, oral school for the deaf in Kentucky. HLSA was founded in 1948 by the Woman's Club of Louisville and the Kiwanis Club of Louisville, serving just three students.

    Heuser Hearing and Language Academy Today

    Heuser today provides services to more than 150 students from birth to the third grade, and works closely with local public school systems. A Parent Infant Program works with children from birth to age three. The Preschool/Kindergarten program serves children from three to six. In addition, an early elementary Pilot Program teaches first to third graders needing more assistance. The Pilot Program is only open to children living outside of Jefferson County. HLSA offers speech therapy, physical, and occupational therapy. The focus is on oral education, with visual communication support through sign language as needed.

    Unlike the Kentucky School for the Deaf which gets state financial support, Heuser is a nonprofit organization that depends on private financial support. One source of support is a school foundation. However, educational services at Heuser are free or low cost to parents.


    Gannon, Jack R., Deaf Heritage, National Association of the Deaf, 1981.

    Van Cleve, John V., ed. Gallaudet Encyclopedia of Deaf People and Deafness. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1987.

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