Lesser Known Facts about the Community of People with Disabilities

Have you ever toured a disability museum, visited a university for the Deaf or watched a game at the Deaflympics? If you have not, read on to learn more about [...]

Have you ever toured a disability museum, visited a university for the Deaf or watched a game at the Deaflympics? If you have not, read on to learn more about them from our senior advocacy analyst Poh Sho Siam.


Museum of disABILITY History
Visitors can learn more about the history of people with disabilities, their struggles, successes and their impact on the American society at the Museum disABILITY History in New York. The museum is dedicated to advancing the understanding, acceptance and independence of people with disabilities.

It houses a collection of artifacts, photographs and archival materials such as historic postcards, adaptive equipment and movies with disability themes. Tours around the museum, outreach programmes and lectures on topics including history of disabilities and disability etiquette are all part of its educational efforts. For those who are unable to visit the museum, it also brings exhibits to schools, libraries and conferences, and uses its website and virtual exhibits to create awareness of people with disabilities.

Museum of disABILITY History

Exhibits in the Museum of disABILITY History

Disability History Museum
For those who would like to know more about disability from the comfort of their homes could choose to visit the Disability History Museum, a virtual museum that aims to help visitors deepen their understanding of human variations and differences, and to develop a deeper appreciation of how important are the experiences of people with disabilities on the everyday lives of everyone. The website hosts a library of documents, visual stills, education materials and virtual exhibits to enable research and study on the historical experiences of people with disabilities and their communities.



Gallaudet University
Established in 1864, the Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., United States of America, has a history of 150 years. It was named in honour of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet who founded the first school for deaf students in the United States. The university is the world’s only one with programmes and services specifically designed to accommodate students with hearing impairment. Students may choose from more than 40 majors leading to a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science Degree.

Statue of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet in campus

Gallaudet University students in class

The National Technical Institute for the Deaf
The National Technical Institute for the Deaf is one of the nine colleges of Rochester Institute of Technology in New York in the United States of America. It aims to provide students with hearing impairment with technical and professional education to prepare them for work, as well as to work in fields related to deafness so as to enhance social, economic and educational accommodation of deaf people.

National University Corporation of Tsukuba University of Technology
The National University Corporation of Tsukuba University of Technology is an institute of higher education for the hearing and visually impaired in Japan. It offers undergraduate and graduate courses on industrial technology and health sciences to help students develop strong professional and vocational skills. This enables them to be socially independent and contribute to social development as leaders of the community of people with disabilities in future.

Sporting Events

Are you aware that besides the Olympics and the Paralympics, there is the Deaflympics? Organised by the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD), the Deaflympics games are under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Started in 1924, it was first known as the International Silent Games. They later became the World Games for the Deaf and Deaflympics was formally adopted in 2001. Deaflympics take place every four years, with the Summer Deaflympics and the Winter Deaflympics held every second year.

2015 Winter Deaflympics Mascot

The games are modeled after the Olympic Games, but visual cues are used in place of auditory cues. For example, the swimming races are started using three different coloured lights in sequence to tell the swimmer when to take-their-mark and when to go. The football referee uses a flag instead of blowing a whistle. Athletes with a hearing loss of at least 55dB in the better ear and who are from member nations of the ICSD are eligible to participate in the games, but they are not to use hearing aids or external cochlear implant aids during the games.

The first games in 1924 were held in Paris, France, with 148 athletes from nine European countries. Participation has grown over the years and 2,700 athletes from 88 nations took part in the most recent summer games held in Bulgaria in 2013. Eight Singapore athletes participated in bowling and taekwondo in the Taipei summer games in 2009.

The first Winter Games started in Seefeld, Austria in 1949, with 33 athletes from five countries. The latest one was held in Russia from 28 March to 5 April 2015, with the participation of 334 athletes from 27 nations. Since 1924, 22 summer games and 16 winter games have been held.

Singapore athletes at 2009 Taipei Summer Deaflympics

Special Olympics

‘Special Olympics’ is a global sports organisation that supports 4.4 million athletes with intellectual disabilities in 170 countries, promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion among people with and without intellectual disabilities. It was founded by Mrs Eunice Kennedy Shriver who saw that people with intellectual disabilities were far more capable in sports and physical activities than many thought.

In 1988, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) signed an agreement granting its recognition to ‘Special Olympics’ and authorising the use of ‘Olympics’ in the organisation’s name.

The first Special Olympics World Summer Games, then called the International Special Olympics Summer Games, was held in Chicago, United States of America, in 1968. Close to a thousand participants with intellectual disabilities from 26 states in America and Canada competed in track and field and swimming events. The games were then held every four years, alternating between summer and winter games every two years.

The next summer games will take place from 25 July to 2 August 2015 in Los Angeles, United States of America. Special Olympics Singapore, a voluntary welfare organisation affiliated to the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), plans to send a contingent of 35 athletes to join over 7,000 athletes from 177 countries in the games.

Special Olympics Europe-Eurasia 2010 Games in Poland

Websites of Museum of DisABILITY History (US), Disability History Museum (US), Gallaudet University (US), National Technical Institute for the Deaf (US), National University Corporation of Tsukuba University of Technology (Japan), 2015 International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (US), Special Olympics (US) and Special Olympics Singapore.

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