By C.C. Ryder

Everyone needs a mentor or a hero to look up to, especially as a child. Children need someone to emulate or be inspired by in setting personal and/or professional goals.  These mentors or heroes represent or illustrate what dreams and goals are possible and demonstrate how they overcame their challenges to become successful. But, what happens if a child does not identify with existing mentors and heroes?  Children tend to emulate individuals like them, so it is important to find inspiring individuals who are similar to the child, whether in background, ethnicity, culture, language, or identity, or all of the above.  What if everyone, out of ignorance, discouraged a Deaf child simply because of inability to hear? How is the message perceived? How will that Deaf child grow into a successful, productive person who contributes to society in meaningful ways?

There was a time when important Deaf people went unacknowledged. However, today the Deaf Community can be proud of so many who fought for and gained so much success in mainstreamed society and for the Deaf Community as a whole. Deaf and Hard of Hearing children now not only have a rich culture, they also have a multitude of mentors and heroes.

The following is a list of just some of the most notable and influential Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals, both past and present. I challenge you to familiarize yourself and your children with the stories of these many individuals who are heroes within the Deaf Community.   May these stories inspire you and your children to believe anything is possible and not dependent on the ability to hear.



Shelley Beattie (1967-2008)
James “Deaf” Burke (1809-1845)
Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003)
Ashley Fiolek (born 1990)
Jeff Float (born 1960)
Kevin Frost (born 1967)
Matt The Hammer Hamill (born 1976)
Dummy Hoy (1862-1961)
Ildik jlaky-Rejto (born 1937)
Jim Kyte (born 1964)
Mike Murphy (1860-1913)
Kitty ONeil (born 1946)
Terrence Parkin
Curtis Pride (1968-Present)
Kenny Walker (1964-Present)


Chuck Baird (1947-2012)
John Brewster, Jr. (1766-1854)
John Louis Clarke (1881-1970)
Louis Frisino
Francisco de Goya (1746-1828)
Olof Hanson (1862-1933)
David Hockney (born 1937)
Regina Olson Hughes (1895-1993)
Will J. Quinlan (1877-1963)
Slava Rakaj (1877-1906)
Granville Redmond (1871-1935)
Douglas Tilden (1860-1935)


Connie Briscoe (1952-Present)

Kelby Brick
Peter Cook
Pierre Desloges (1747-1799)
Colin Dexter (born 1930)
Raymond Luczak

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876)
Dorothy Dot  Miles (1931-1993)
Stevie Platt

Laura C. Redden Searing (1839-1923)
Pierre de Ronsard (1524 -1585)
Laura Redden Searing (pen name Howard Glyndon) (1839-1923)
Clayton Valli (1951-2003)
Julius Wiggins (1928-2001)

Deaf Education

Ferdinand Berthier (1803-1886)
Laura Bridgman (1829-1889)
William Castle
Laurent Clerc (1785-1869)
Dr. Richard Orin Cornett (1913-2002)
Abbe De l’Efpee (1712-1789)
Andrew Foster
Thomas H. Gallaudet (1822–1902)
Samuel Heinicke (1727-1790)
I. King Jordan (1943-2006)
George Veditz (1861-1937)


Julia Brace (1807-1884)
Laura Bridgman (1829-1889)
Helen Keller (1880-1968)


Antoinette Abbamonte
Michelle Banks
Sean Berdy (1993-Present)
Linda Bove (1945-Present)
Deanne Bray (1971-Present)
Bernard Bragg (1928-Present)

Nyle DiMarco (1989-Present)

Amy Ecklund
Lou Ferrigno (1951-Present)
Phyllis Frelich (1944-2014)
C.J. Jones
Marlee Matlin (1965-Present)
Anthony Natale
Howie Seago
Christy Smith (1978-Present)
Shoshannah Stern (1980-Present)
Frances Woods (born Esther Richina Thomas) ( 1907-2000)
Heather Whitestone McCallum (1973-Present)


Erastus “Deaf” Smith (1787-1837)

Harry Ward

Private Gomer Jones

Frederick Morffew


Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Sean Forbes (1982-Present)

Evelyn Glennie (born 1965)
Johnnie Ray (1927-1990)
Signmark (born Marko Vuoriheimo in 1978)
Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884)


Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927)
Kate Harvey (?-1946)
Rocky Stone


Nellie Zabel Willhite (1892-1991)


Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884)
Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen
Sue Thomas (born 1950)
Claudia Gordon

Kathleen Ollerenshaw (born 1912)


Guillaume Amontons (1663-1705)
Vinton Cerf (1943-Present)

John Cornforth (born 1917)
Thomas Edison (1847-1931)

Leo Lesquereux (1806-1889)

Deaf Related

Alexander Melville Bell (1819–1905)

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922)



Information Sources


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