Deaf Way II Presentation
On Iranian Deaf Culture
By Abbas Ali Behmanesh

Deaf Education

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the officially announced literacy rate is 48% to 52% of the population in 1991. The total number of people blind, deaf, or deaf-blind is unknown and there are 509 schools for disabled children. According to the statistics from the Department of Special Education in 1992, there are 485 educational centers for the Deaf in 53 regions in Iran. There are 9,905 students and 1,704 teachers from preschool to high school. There are 69 languages listed for Iran. Of those, 68 are living languages and one is the original language, which is called Farsi or Persian. The Iranian government does not recognize Persian Sign language as a legitimate language for Deaf people.

According to a prominent, well-respected teacher, and one of the best-known lecturers of Iranian deaf education, Samineh Baghcheban, deaf education was established in 1926, or 1305 in the Iranian calendar. The founder of deaf education in Iran was Jabar Baghcheban, Samineh’s father. His original name is Jabar Asgaerzadeh. He was born in Irvan or Yerevan, in the country of Armenia, formerly of Russia, and was educated in the old school, possibly in a religious school. He was a reporter for several newspapers and published several magazines such as the Lak Lak magazine. He was also a writer for the Fokahee Mula Naserladin newspaper. During the Russian Revolutionary War, he wandered from place to place, and returned to Tabriz, northwest of Iran, where his families and relatives were from.

Several schools hired Jabar Baghcheban as a teacher. He earned his reputation while he was searching for effective methods to teach reading and writing Farsi to children of Turkish speaking parents. In 1924 (1303), he founded a kindergarten school with the assistance of a friend who worked in the Department of Education. Opening his school without any support or resources related to developing curriculum was a huge step for Baghcheban. In 1927 (1306), Baghcheban was persuaded to move to a southern Iranian city, Shiraz, in the following year, 1928 (1307), due to lack of support from the government for the school. He established a kindergarten program for hearing children in Shiraz. Prior to this kindergarten program, a few kindergarten programs were established by religious groups other than Muslims that were held in churches and temples in Tehran and Tabriz.

During Jabar Baghcheban’s stay in Tabriz and prior to his move to Shiraz, the mother of one deaf student came to the kindergarten school and complained to Jabar Baghcheban about her frustrations.  The schools were of the opinion that her son could not be educated. This situation planted a seed in Baghcheban’s mind about teaching deaf students. He established a class for three deaf students in 1926 (1305). He also invented the communication method of Iranian Cued Speech, which has been in use for more than 30 years by schools and social clubs since then.  Baghcheban decided to demonstrate his method of teaching the three deaf students in his class to the public. To his surprise, many people wanted to attend his program. People expressed disbelief when they saw that his deaf students were able to read and write. Baghcheban acted as a pioneer for Iranian deaf education. He did not study deaf education previously but invented his own methods.

Jabar Baghcheban decided to move to the capital city, Tehran, and established another deaf school in 1932 (1311).  This deaf school in the Yousef Abad locality was later relocated across the street and renamed as the “National School for the Deaf”. According to Samineh, during the years 1933-1934 (1312-1313), people threatened Jabar Baghcheban. Even worse, hearing people threw stones that crushed the school’s sign after Baghcheban defended the deaf students who were being verbally harassed in front of the school. But that incident didn’t stop him.

Jabar Baghcheban also experimented with a silent telephone made with two cups and a string drawn between them that a deaf person could use to hear the speech sounds more clearly. After a while, this method was abandoned because it wasn’t popular. During Baghchaban's experimental phase about how to teach deaf students, he realized that the most effective method of teaching would be on a visual basis, not on an auditory basis.

Baghcheban expanded the teaching tools he had already developed and trained many hearing teachers of deaf children. In 1935 (1314), Baghcheban published his method of teaching deaf children Farsi. The following year, he published a first grade Farsi book with an Iranian Cued Speech system for Deaf students to use. He completed his project to create a curriculum for a 5-year elementary school system in 1949 (1328).

To my knowledge, Baghcheban’s pedagogy in Deaf Education is one of the best teaching methods in Iran.  He devoted 50 years of his life to work and research on Deaf Education and taught a total of 299 students. Baghcheban was finally recognized and chosen by the government to supervise the Persian language curriculum. He was responsible for all the public schools in Iran and for fulfilling the official objective to reduce the illiteracy rate in Iran. 

In his twilight years of his life, Baghcheban wrote many poems and magazines in addition to his teaching. Two of his most famous are “Snow Man” and "I Also Wish In My World." After Baghcheban’s death at 82 years of age in 1966 (1345), his daughter, Samineh Baghchaban-Pir Nazar, assumed his teaching responsibilities, and also handled the deaf school as a principal.

Samineh was born in 1927 (1306) in Tabriz, Iran. Samineh followed her father’s steps. She was familiar with her father’s teaching methods since she had attended her father’s schools as a child. As a result, Samineh received early training in deaf education. Samineh received a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the Teachers College of the University of Tehran, and a Master’s degree in Deaf Education from the Smith College in Northampton.

Samineh received additional training at the oral Clarke School for the Deaf in the United States.  She has devoted many years of her life to helping Iranian deaf people, and has lectured in many places about deaf people’s needs. The Clark School for the Deaf recognized her ambitious efforts and involvement in Deaf education. This school honored her by naming one out of ten scholarships after her. This scholarship is given only to hearing Middle Eastern people who wanted to learn about Deaf education.

In addition to Deaf education, other services were created under Samineh's leadership after her return to Iran in 1950. An audiology clinic was established to provide hearing tests and speech therapy services. Students seeking a bachelor’s degree in audiology operated this clinic within the Meli University. With Samineh’s assistance, Deaf education and adjunct services were also established in other Iranian cities such as Mashhad, Tabriz, and Isfahan.

Samineh became active in many organizations, such as the National Rehabilitation Center for the Deaf, where she held the position of director general in 1971; Iranian National Association for Welfare of the Deaf (Sazman Meli Refah Nashenavayan Iran), where she held the position of president in 1973; and the World Federation for the Deaf, where she held the positions of managing director of the Fourth Regional Secretariat of the World Federation of the Deaf in 1977. She retired from these positions due to the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran when the fundamentalists overthrew the Shah. Losing Samineh due to the 1979 Islamic Revolution was a devastating blow dealt to the Iranian Deaf Community. Samineh was one of the greatest leaders in deaf education. She rejoined her family in the United States. Today, she still teaches, for example, Persian to Iranian-American children and non-Iranian people.

From 1973 through 1979, Farah Pahlavi, the Shah’s wife and the queen of Iran, sponsored deaf education and rehabilitation and strived to improve the situation for deaf people by supporting the National Association for Welfare of the Deaf (Sazman Meli Refah Nashenavayan Iran).  According to World Federation of the Deaf, the Iranian National Association for Welfare of the Deaf under Samineh’s leadership was chosen to train all hearing teachers who were from third world countries. With assistance from Farah Pahlavi, four female hearing teachers came from Syria and Iraq to learn how to teach deaf students.

In addition, Farah Pahlavi and the Iranian government sponsored the first convention celebrating 50 years of deaf education in 1977. American, European, and African scholars attended the convention in Tehran. The most important outcome of this convention in Tehran was the establishment of a regional center for training teachers of deaf students.  Resources were expanded as a result as well, for example, the creation of tools to educate hearing people regarding the abilities of deaf people. The World Federation for the Deaf also recognized the achievements of this convention. The following year four men from African countries would have attended this program but plans were interrupted because of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

During Samineh's previous leadership, almost all of the teachers were trained in the Baghcheban School for the Deaf.  They were the most qualified. Many deaf adults and mothers of deaf children worked as teachers and technicians in the Baghcheban school as well. Other factors for the success in deaf education were the deaf teachers’ work in the deaf schools, and the deaf community's involvement in the deaf schools. In 1979, the first deaf group graduated from the Baghcheban School for the Deaf. Some of them entered the university in Tehran to pursue their educational goals, particularly with respect to graphic design majors. Between 1980 and 1985, the deaf schools hired all of the deaf university graduates. This positive step in deaf education enabled deaf people to get involved in the deaf schools. Many girls regarded these graduates as their role models.

After this peak in Iranian deaf education, the number of deaf people that were hired slacked off mainly because they lacked a university degree. In the 1980's, many deaf students graduated from high school and became teacher assistants and substitute teachers. They provided tutoring and other assistance for deaf students with special needs. Deaf staff did not become full-blown teachers like hearing people.  This was a sign of Audism at work, an attitude favoring an auditory rather than a visual basis of communication. In spite of having qualified deaf people with a lot of potential available, hearing people were the ones that got the teaching jobs in deaf education.

There were conflicts in the management providing deaf education and research. Two governmental departments were involved: the Department of Health and the Department of Special Education. They have different philosophies. The hearing management within the school systems and the Department of Special Education believed that the Oralist method should be used to educate Deaf students. The Department of Health believed that Persian Sign Language (PSL) should be used instead, and sponsored the Julia Samii Research Center at the Tavanbakhshi University where the PSL dictionary was being developed. They were always arguing with each other. The result of this bickering in deaf education was that Deaf students suffered.

The Deaf community finally triumphed when they challenged the Department of Special Education with a panel focusing on deaf education from a Deaf perceptive. Lissa Lappiack who was the president of the World Federation for the Deaf, and Samineh Baghcheban-Pir Nazar, an expert in Deaf education, were on the panel. The debate on the panel was the oral system versus a visual sign language system, and it demonstrated that the visual system was the more appropriate method to use for effective communication with Deaf students and Deaf people.

Deaf Associations and Organizations

Many Deaf people who established Deaf organizations came from the more than 15 Baghcheban deaf schools in Tehran. It was common that deaf people wanted to have a social life and to do activities together after graduation from deaf schools. It was a part of Deaf culture to gather together after finishing school. They also established deaf organizations after graduation in other cities, such as Isfahan, Tabriz, Mashhad, Zahdan, Kermanshah, Ahvaz, Dezfool, and others. The deaf organizations became more popular when members could get involved in many different kinds of deaf sports. A few members who graduated from the universities in Iran became leaders of the Iranian deaf communities.

Iranian National Center for the Deaf (Canon Karolalhay Iran)

After the fall of the kingdom of Reza Khan, who was the father of the Shah, a group of hearing students that had studied in Europe with the assistance of the Iranian government and the Prime Minister, brought ideas of collectivism and teamwork to a society that had previously been highly individualistic. Teamwork was a revolutionary idea in Iran at that time. These students established a number of associations to serve the needs of hearing students, which observed the new doctrine of teamwork. These new ideas soon spread, eliminating the past focus on individualism. Jabar Baghcheban was familiar with teamwork and the management needs of associations in general.  He therefore helped deaf students to establish the Iranian National Association for the Deaf in 1948 (1327). Baghcheban was its president and treasurer. Due to a lack of membership involvement, however, the deaf association closed.

After 11 years, on February 16th, 1960 (the 14th day of Esfand in 1339), a group of deaf people reestablished the Iranian National Association for the Deaf. These people were Ali Sartipy, Reza Pholy Shahidy, Mohamed Marshi, Mohamed Ali Hakimbashi, Hosein Mir Jalaly, Shahban Raisdana, Mirza Apha Homayonfar, and Hosein Mir Hoseini. All of them were students of Baghcheban. The first president of this organization was Ali Sartipy, who was a hard-of-hearing man. In 1973 (1352), the second president was Hadi Moayeri, a deafened individual who served for more than 20 years as president of this deaf association. The third president is Behrouz Mobsheri, also a Deaf individual. The Iranian National Association for Welfare of the Deaf (Sazman Meli Refah Nashenavayan Iran) provided financial support for this organization. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, financial support was provided by the Department of Health. In the year 2000, the presidential office of Mohammad Khatami’s fledging democracy provided financial support for constructing a new building for the Iranian National Associate for the Deaf organization, along with a huge allotment of land, a few acres at least. This building was only semi-completed and the organization is waiting to receive more financial support from other sources to complete this building.

Iranian National Association for Welfare of the Deaf (Sazman Meli Refah Nashenavayan Iran)

Samineh Baghcheban-Pir Nazar established the Iranian National Association for Welfare of the Deaf Organization. This organization was sponsored by the Department of Health and Welfare. In this organization, Samineh’s most important work and powerful was to expand the deaf schools, to train as many teachers, to expand the tools for developing the dictionary of the Persian Sign language, and to promote the deaf leaders in Iran as possible. In 1971 (1350), Julia Ann Oliver Samii accepted a position offered by Samineh within this organization. Even though the salary was meager, Julia felt compelled to help the deaf community. Julia, the American wife of an Iranian businessman, Dr. Sirius Babk Samii, immigrated to Iran in 1957, and became very interested in learning about Iranian culture and customs. Jabar Baghcheban and Julia developed a close relationship when he helped her to learn Farsi, the spoken language of Iran. She became active in promoting the needs of deaf people. Julia helped Samineh to build a strong deaf community. According to Samineh, Julia made the Iranian deaf organization stronger by improving the network between Iranian and American communities. To educate Iranian government officials about deaf people, Julia succeeded in bringing to Iran prominent deaf American individuals, for example, Bernard Bragg, Frances Parsons, Ms. Buchanan, Alice Burch and Fredrick Schreiber. They demonstrated that Iranian deaf people could be liberated. American deaf leaders inspired many Iranian deaf people.

Sandbags of Literacy for the Deaf Organization (Sazman Sangar Roshanfeker Nashenavay Iran)

During the 1979 Islamic Revolution, a group of literate deaf people established an independent organization, Sazman Sangar Roshanfeker Nashenavayan Iran. After publishing their fourth newspaper, this organization collapsed in 1981 due to lack of financial and public support. The first president was a prominent deaf person, Kamran Rahimi. He worked with deaf groups such as Reza Mahmoodi, Mohsen Luth Mosavi, and a few others.

Association of Deaf Families (Anjoman Khanevadeh Nashenavayan)

The history of the Association of Deaf Families (Anjoan Khanevadeh Nashenavayan) began when a few deaf people from the Iranian National Center for the Deaf (Canon Karolalhay Iran) decided to split from this organization and establish their own organization in 1978 (1359) as a spin-off. Members of this spin-off organization could go to their clubhouse without interference from government authorities that were then enforcing laws that proscribed the intermingling of men and women in clubs. For this reason the clubhouse was a popular place for deaf people to patronize, along with other attractions, for example, Western pantomimes and movies. Most young deaf people watched Western movies at the clubhouse despite the official prohibition against them. Since VCRs were not affordable for families, it was difficult to enforce the official prohibition at the clubhouse. Furthermore, the organization provided discounts on merchandise for its members with subsidies from the Iranian government. Other benefits of membership included counseling for spouses of arranged marriages as well.

Iranian Deaf Sports Federation (Federation Varzeshi Nashenavayan Iran)

Karim Raisi, a Deaf individual and the wrestling champion of the world, begged Farah Pahlavi to issue annual driver’s licenses for deaf people. The royal family honored the request. In recognition of deaf athletes’ triumphs, the royal family also awarded deaf people a large gym that enabled athletes to play soccer, volleyball, judo, basketball, and to go swimming in a pool. The gym also included a modern restaurant and theater. Unfortunately, hearing people manage the gym. Hearing people also occupied the top management positions in the Iranian Deaf Sports Federation (Federation Varzeshi Nashenavayan Iran). These hearing people are able to take advantage of their positions at the expense of deaf athletes. These hearing managers get financial support from the Iranian government, such as retirement plans, car loans, and mortgages. They share the equipment in the gym with their relatives and friends. They travel around the world with deaf athletes for less than full fare. These excesses are signs of their selfish and ethnocentric attitudes toward deaf people. Before getting the royalty’s grant for the gym, the deaf athletes practiced in the hearing gym and it was basically the place where Tea House Sign Language (Ghahveh Khaneh) was created.

Iranian Parents Association of the Deaf (Jammiat Oliay Nashenavayan Iran)

A strong advocate of oralism, Mahmoud Pakzad, hearing secretary of the National Association for the Deaf, established this organization. The by-laws and the constitution were made after 3 years after the establishment of the organization. Deaf people and parents of deaf individuals run this organization.

Youth Palace (Kakh Javanan)

After socializing with hearing people and showing off the pantomime talents of deaf youths, cooperating deaf groups established a youth group, Youth Palace (Kakh Javanan), with Samineh’s assistance. Their first building had three floors. The basement of this building was reserved for training deaf illiterate people (vocational school). The first floor had a stage, conference rooms, and lobbies. The second floor was reserved for girls’ sewing classes. Soon thereafter, the organization relocated to another building on Kakh Street from which the name is derived from. The first president was Kamran Rahimi, and the second president was Reza Mahmoodi. The organization collapsed in 1982 (1361) or 1983 (1362).

Youth Cultural House of the Deaf (Anjoman Park Shafagh)

In October 1997 (Aban 1376), Deaf youths established the Youth Cultural House of the Deaf (Anjoman Park Shafagh). Some of the founders learned how to operate a deaf organization when they stayed in Japan. Upon their return to Iran, the deaf youths impressed Iranian government officials when they established a place in Shafagh Park for other deaf youths to benefit from. Shafagh Park, from which the organization name is derived from, is considered to be the heart of Tehran. With the sponsorship of the Iranian National Center for the Deaf (Canon Karolalhay Iran), local deaf clubs, and the city hall, this youth organization hosted a major event in 1998 (1377) to promote Iranian deaf culture and language. The president of the World Federation of the Deaf was invited to Iran for this event.

House of the Deaf

In 1998, Aghzam Shafii, a hearing woman, established The House of the Deaf organization. She retired from being a vice principal at the Baghcheban National School for the Deaf (Deaf School # 2). Her sister currently living in the USA loaned Aghzam her house in Tehran, Iran to host the organization. The expenses of this organization were covered by generous donations from wealthy hearing people in Iran. Activities sponsored are:

1.      Iranian females getting together for a cup of tea and gossip, and networking to gain communication access to hearing agencies

2.      Pantomime, playacting, and storytelling by Deaf men and women actors  

3.      Craft workshops such as sewing and knitting

4.      Computer literacy and training workshops

5.      Education and exposure for hearing people and agencies about Deaf culture and deaf people’s abilities in relation to assimilation into hearing society

6.      Arranged marriages, wedding parties, and funerals including donations and financial assistance for Deaf people who cannot afford them otherwise

7.      Deaf people traveling to holy cities in Syria and Turkey to pay respect to the imams, or Islamic leaders' graves, particularly those that were assassinated

Society for the Protection of Deaf Children

Baghcheban established the Society for the Protection of Deaf Children organization in 1943 (1322). This organization's mission and goal were to provide support and resources for primarily two things: a teacher training program, and providing for students with special needs at the schools for the Deaf in Iran.

The Deaf Community after the 1979 Revolution

After the 1979 Revolution, many skilled people in deaf education left Iran for the West. This situation placed the Iranian Deaf people in a difficult predicament and caused a “Dark Age” for them. Today, many Iranian Deaf people do not understand what the teachers say. The schools are all conducted orally. Fortunately, the Department of Health and Tavanbakhshi University employ some literate Deaf people. For this reason, the third edition of Iranian Sign Language dictionary has expanded since the 1979 Revolution. Today, a fourth edition of the Iranian Sign Language dictionary is being completed.

Deaf schools: Deaf children throughout Iran are shocked when they visit the deaf schools. The environment is different than what they are used to. For all students, there is compulsory religious instruction at school. Girls are taught that learning to be a good mother is more important than pursuing careers. Iranian women are discouraged from leaving their homes. The government proscribes the intermingling of men and women in public places. A dress code is mandatory for all Iranians as well. Unlike girls, boys are expected to pursue higher educational or vocational training.

Deaf women: Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, women were able to freely associate with men. However, this was no longer true afterwards. Deaf Iranian women, in particular, had difficulty in adjusting to the societal changes caused by the 1979 Islamic Revolution. For example, courtship was considerably more difficult for deaf Iranian women. During the reign of the Shah, educational and judicial reforms were put into place that lessened the influence of the religious classes and laid the basis of a modern state. Women were freed from the Hijab and Chador. (Hijab and Chador are Farsi terms meaning clothing that cover the hair and bodies of women.) Divorce laws were modified in their favor.

The most common form of recreation in Iran for deaf people is visiting friends and relatives, most often two or three times a week. Deaf Iranians relocate less frequently than Americans do, and develop very close relationships with other deaf people. Often, a great deal of social life centers on the clubs and sport places where deaf people gather to play and pass the time with guests and visitors. Gossiping, card games, and backgammon, are also very popular pastimes.

Since deaf children put in long hours doing homework, and deaf girls often help with household duties, they have little time for recreation during the school year. Deaf clubhouses and sport clubs tend to be at full capacity during the weekends, since the forbidden American movies are shown. Club patrons also watch soccer to fill their long days of summer. Today, however, deaf unmarried women are forbidden by cultural conventions from patronizing the clubhouses or sport clubs unless they have an escort. It is common for deaf unmarried women to bring their fathers or brothers to the clubs. The women's fathers or brothers watch TV while the deaf women chat with each other. The deaf women may play sports only in special enclosed areas. While recreation in today's Iran today for deaf women is largely restricted to entertaining close family and female friends at home, deaf men may leave without an escort, play games with their buddies out in the countryside, and spend their evenings with each other at a local cafe.

Sign Language

There are three sign languages in the Iranian deaf community. The first one is cued speech or Baghcheban’s phonetic Hand alphabet, which for more than 30 years has been in use by schools and social clubs. In 1304, Jabar Baghcheban invented this phonetic hand alphabet to help Deaf pupils to understand about literacy.  The second sign language is Tea House Sign Language (Ghahveh Khaneh). This sign language is named after a popular place where Deaf people, both literate and illiterate, get together to chat in the afternoons or evenings after work. The Tea House, unfortunately, was not a safe place for females to attend. The third one is the natural sign language called Persian Sign Language, which splintered from cued speech. Tea House Sign Language heavily influenced Persian Sign Language as well.

The research on Persian Sign Language began in 1973 (1352), with participation of both literate and illiterate deaf people. In 1978 (1357), this research was interrupted due to the death of Julia Ann Oliver Samii, the American wife of an Iranian businessman, Dr. Sirius Babak Samii, as mentioned earlier. Sadly, Julia was killed along with two of her sons and a friend in a small aircraft crash on a visit to northern Iran. After a short suspension, deaf people resumed the research on Persian Sign Language. To honor Julia, the research center that Julia established with Samineh’s assistance was renamed “Julia Samii Research Center” at the Tavanbakhshi University, also known as the University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation on Kudakyar St., Deneshjoo. Blve., Evin, Tehran – 19834, Iran. The Farsi address is shown below:

Julia was the impetus for Iranian deaf individuals recognizing that there was a need for the publication of a Persian Sign Language dictionary, to preserve deaf culture. For this reason Julia is considered to be the mother of Persian Sign Language. She will always be remembered for her contributions to the Iranian Deaf Community, particularly the research done for the Persian Sign Language dictionary. Julia also helped deaf people learn that Persian Sign Language is a legitimate language for deaf people and that Audism wasn’t the way Deaf people should go. Julia brought the American Deaf teacher, Ms. Buchanan, to Iran to introduce the Iranian Deaf high school students to American Sign Language. The students were shocked to learn that American Sign Language did not require them to learn any oral or speech related things.

The first edition of the dictionary on Persian Sign Language was published in 1980 (1359), and re-edited in 1991 (1370). The second edition of the dictionary was published in 1997 (1376), and a third edition of the dictionary was published in 1999 (1378). The publication of a fourth edition of the dictionary is pending and will include a CD-ROM.

Some of the deaf prominent leaders that are working for the Julia Samii Research Center are Mohsen Mosavi, Morteza Pirouzi, Reza Mahmoudi and Habib Tehrani. They are the signers in a weekly TV news broadcast. They wanted to keep Deaf people informed about what was going on in Iran and around the world. This is a big step towards educating both literate and illiterate Deaf people about the advantages of using sign language. With the use of TV media in this fashion, Deaf leaders throughout Iran could expand their knowledge of sign language. Deaf advocates also put forth their best efforts to persuade the Department of TV Media to show the hearing interpreter’s face and hands on the bottom corner of the TV screen so that Deaf viewers can comprehend what they are talking about on TV. Hearing people are exposed to the use of sign language on TV this way. It is an opportunity for deaf people to educate hearing people about the use of visual communication methods in the media such as using an interpreter.


In conclusion, the education of deaf people in Iran has a long history and a strong influence over all of Iran. It was due to the pioneering efforts of Baghcheban, Samineh, Julia, Deaf community leaders, and others like them. The results of their actions impacted favorably on many deaf Iranian individuals and groups. Regardless of recent and radical religious and political conflicts, deaf schools have been operational and have experienced constant expansion throughout Iran. The quality of deaf education and the deaf community can be vastly improved with consideration of the following nine points:


1)       Only one department in Iran should supervise the curriculum for the deaf elementary and secondary schools. The department of special education (oralism) and department of health (signing) should be merged into one department as far as deaf education is concerned.

2)      Change the prevailing attitudes toward satisfying Deaf people's educational needs and tailor the educational system to the deaf individual's interest. Give equally to deaf people that which is given to disabled people (handicapped people).

3)      Research on which is the appropriate language of instruction in provinces where the signed language is not Persian Sign Language. The Department of Education is required to work closely with the deaf community to develop the sign language dictionary. The Department of Health is the only organization that provides financial support for the development of the sign language dictionary.

4)      Any decisions that are made with the active participation of the Deaf community should be heard and respected. No matter how well qualified and well-intentioned hearing specialists are, it will be more productive if the Deaf community itself is represented in any decision-making process. Deaf people will listen to Deaf leaders more than they would listen to hearing leaders because of common experiences related to Audism and oppression.

5)      Empowerment of deaf people is the best strategy. Deaf people should be able to express their ideas and invest their energies in any meeting productively. For example, others should value and respect deaf people’s decisions, beliefs, and past experiences.

6)      Invite the participation in the educational decision-making process by Deaf and hearing people who have worked closely with Deaf education, by Deaf organizations, such as the World Federation of the Deaf, and Iranian National Association of the Deaf, and by schools of higher education with deaf programs, such as Gallaudet University and Doncaster College for the Deaf.

7)      Promote deaf leaders to higher positions within the educational system and let them work closely with high-ranking officers in the departments of education and medicine.

8)      Establish a Deaf Education major at the Iranian universities for Deaf and hearing students who desire to become teachers of Deaf children.

9)      An international Deaf student exchange program and a Deaf leadership camp should be offered at the Deaf schools. The benefits of these programs are Deaf empowerment, Deaf cultural exchange of ideas, enriching life experiences for Deaf people, and so on.


The structured classroom in deaf education in Iran has been established since the 1900's. However, disadvantages are seen in this atmosphere from a pedagogical perspective. There is a virtual lack of interaction between the core cultural Deaf community and deaf people that are marginalized due to an imposition of a pathological point of view of hearing loss by the educational system. The Department of Education strongly believes in the oral approach. The Deaf community leaders believe that deaf children should be raised appropriately in their own Deaf culture. A wall exists because the Department of Education will not allow Deaf adult role models interact with deaf pupils in the educational system. In spite of many activities offered from the Deaf community in Iran, deaf children can easily overlook all these activities unless they have a prior existing passion to get involved. Many marginalized deaf children joined the Deaf world later when they faced double oppression from their own Deaf community and from the hearing world (refer to Paddy Ladd's understanding Deaf culture, 2003).  Still, Deaf education in Iran has a strong background, and empowered many Deaf people within Iran and abroad. A few Iranian Deaf women and men are getting master’s degrees. Many books and articles have demonstrated that many Iranian Deaf people have the potential and the capacity to run their own organizations and indeed have been doing so.  Archives for Iranian Deaf history are being planned and set up. A triumph for the Iranian Deaf community was a “Deaf In Iran” presentation in Paris, France at the Deaf History International conference on June 30th-July 4th, 2003 by Rouzbeh Ghahrman, the first Deaf person to receive his master’s degree in Iran. He graduated from Mashhad University majoring in history in 2002. This triumph was due to the efforts of Jabar, Samineh, and Julia in Deaf education. Viva la Jabar, Samineh, and Julia!