The History
Last updated February 19, 2008



Rev. Job Turner, first VAD President, 1884.

In June 1884, the Virginia Association of the Deaf (VAD) originated in an old chapel at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Staunton. The first President was the Rev. Job Turner.

In 1891, VAD was officially organized in the spring in the Hall of the House of Delegates at the State Capitol in Richmond.


NAD Convention in Norfolk, 1907.

In 1907, VAD hosted the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Convention in Norfolk, which coincided with the Ter-Centennial (300th) Anniversary celebration of Jamestown. (Note: Jamestown celebrated its 390th anniversary in 1997 and 400th anniversary in 2007.)

In 1908, VAD was instrumental in the establishment of a new state school for the black deaf and the black blind in old Newport News. William C. Ritter, himself deaf and a past president of VAD, was the first superintendent and served in this capacity for over 30 years. This school eventually became the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Hampton.

In 1925, VAD successfully campaigned to make it legal for deaf Virginians to drive automobiles.

In 1945, VAD's first Chapter, the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Deaf, was established. Its first president was Reuben I. Altizer. The Chapter later changed its name to the "Northern Virginia Association of the Deaf."

In 1946, VAD's second Chapter, the Piedmont Chapter of the Deaf, was established. Its first president was Elizabeth Harper.

In 1947, VAD's third and fourth Chapters, the Greater Richmond Chapter of the Deaf and the Tidewater Chapter of the Deaf, were established. The Tidewater Chapter later changed its name to the "Hampton Roads Chapter of the Deaf."

In 1960, VAD's fifth Chapter, the Skyline Chapter of the Deaf, was established to represent Staunton and the Shenandoah Valley area.

In 1961, VAD established the Mother of the Year Award.

In 1966, VAD testified in the General Assembly for a bill that would provide the deaf with an interpreter in all criminal cases.

In 1969, VAD assisted in the establishment of the Virginia Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (VRID). One member is appointed by the VAD Board to serve on VRID's Executive Board.

In 1972, along with the help of parents, friends, Women's Clubs, and the General Assembly, VAD promoted the creation of the Virginia Council for the Deaf (VCD) as an information, referral, and advocacy agency. Fred P. Yates, Jr., himself deaf and an active member of VAD, was elected as VCD's first Executive Secretary; he served in this capacity as an elected officer until 1977 when he became the first Executive Director to be appointed by the Governor.

In 1973, VAD was incorporated.

In 1974, VAD hosted the first Regional Conference of State Associations of the Deaf of the Eastern Region; the event was held in Arlington.

In 1977, VAD, along with VCD, persuaded the General Assembly to authorize a statewide Interpreter Service Program. VAD also aided in setting up a joint Board of Visitors for both state residential schools for the deaf at Hampton and Staunton.

In 1979, the first Miss Deaf Virginia Pageant was held; the winner was Janis (Collier) Tester of Norfolk, VA. The Pageant is held biennially during the VAD Convention on odd-numbered years.

In 1980, VAD assisted in securing a rate-reduction for intrastate telephone calls made by deaf TTY users and successfully pursued the efforts to install a TTY in VEPCO (now Virginia Power), a public utility office.

In 1983, VAD, along with VCD, supported the passage of the bill which legally provides an interpreter for the deaf in civil court cases.

In 1984, VAD persuaded the General Assembly to pass a bill requiring landlords to provide smoke visual alarms to deaf residents in multi-dwelling units, advocated the transition of control of VSDB from the Board of Visitors to the Board of Education, and supported the amendment of the Code of Virginia to change VCD's name to the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH). The General Assembly amended the Code in 1985 to change VCD's name to VDDHH.

In 1985, VAD testified in public hearings in favor of adding 16 bed-units in the Charter Colonial Institute which provided psychiatric care to deaf children/adolescents/young adults.

In 1986, VAD Town Hall Meetings were held in several areas of Virginia. Deaf citizens who attended expressed and shared concerns about accessibility of services, communication difficulties, and the need for increased public awareness.

In 1987, VAD members gave testimonies on the State Plan for the Education of Handicapped Children and at meetings with the commissioners of the State Corporation Commission on accessibility of the communications system.

In 1988, with strong endorsement by VAD, the General Assembly passed a law establishing the Telecommunication Assistance Program (TAP). Since then, thousands of telecommunication devices have been distributed to deaf, hard of hearing, and speech-impaired residents.

In 1989, VAD testified at public hearings in favor of a plan to have one residential school for the deaf in Staunton due to continued declining enrollment. Also, VAD members testified about the need for expanded state mental health services to persons with hearing impairments.  After the General Assembly authorized VDDHH to take over the Quality Assurance Screening Program (QAS), VAD gave input which helped establish high evaluation standards for qualified interpreters.

In 1990, VAD supported the passage of a bill in the General Assembly for a 24-hour telephone relay service for all deaf, hard of hearing, and speech-impaired residents.  VAD joined the NAD and other state associations of the deaf in urging the United States Congress to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a comprehensive civil rights law for all Americans with disabilities.

In 1991, on February 21, the Virginia Relay Center began its 24-hour telephone relay operations in Norton, VA. Its service was considered the best in the nation. This was mainly because of input from VAD members which was instrumental in spelling out minimum requirements in the contract with AT&T, the operator of the relay center.  VAD celebrated its belated 100th Anniversary at the 43rd Biennial Convention in Richmond July 18-21, 1991.

In 1992, VAD and VDDHH co-sponsored the first statewide Deaf Awareness Program for Deaf Awareness Month in September.

In 1993, with a $10,000 grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia, VAD conducted a deaf leadership training in Richmond. At least 50 people participated in the first workshop. VAD held its 42nd Biennial Convention in Roanoke, VA, and Jennifer Yost was crowned Miss Deaf Virginia 1993-95.


Jennifer Yost, Miss Deaf America, 1994-96.

In 1994, VAD testified before the Governor's Commission on Government Reform to keep VDDHH and the two schools for the deaf and blind intact. During the NAD Convention in Knoxville, TN, VAD won the bid to host the NAD Convention in Norfolk in the year 2000. Jennifer Yost, Miss Deaf Virginia, was the first runner-up in the Miss Deaf America Pageant; she became Miss Deaf America when the Pageant winner resigned a few months later.

In 1995, Northern Virginia Association of the Deaf celebrated its 50th Anniversary at a banquet in Falls Church, VA. VAD held its 44th Biennial Convention in Roanoke, VA, and LaShawn Smith was crowned Miss Deaf Virginia 1995-97.

In 1996, Piedmont Chapter of the Deaf celebrated its 50th Anniversary at a banquet in Lynchburg, VA. Representatives from VAD and other deaf-related organizations had a meeting with the Secretary of the Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to discuss five positions at VDDHH that were terminated, affecting five deaf employees. The Secretary agreed to create five positions at VDDHH. VAD hosted the NAD Region I Conference at Charlottesville on March 15-17.

In 1997, on February 11, VAD installed the VAD Home Page on the World Wide Web (WWW) as a means of getting news and information to its members and the public. The Greater Richmond Chapter and the Hampton Roads Chapter celebrated their 50th Anniversary on May 24 and September 13, respectively. VAD held its 46th Biennial Convention at Hampton on Sept. 11-14, and Marie Shook was crowned the Miss Deaf Virginia 1997-99.  The NAD 2000 planning committee created the Top Ten Reasons for Learning Sign Language and printed them on t-shirts to raise funds for the 2000 NAD Conference.  VAD subsequently applied for a copyright on its Top Ten Reasons for Learning Sign Language.

In 1998, VAD along with other organizations gave financial support for the Deaf Culture Lecture Series that were held at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.  VAD supported the passage of bills for Hearing Impaired Identification and Monitoring System which requires all newborns to hearing screening and Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse Services which included $1.4 million for a statewide coordinator for mental health services for the Deaf, five more regional coordinator positions, interpreter funding pool, and teleconferencing equipment.

In 1999, VAD Conference was held at Staunton.  Brianna Ebeling was crowned Miss Deaf Virginia.  VAD supported the following bills: SB 1305, which provided an educational program for children in preschool through grade 12 who have visual and hearing disabilities and who are identified as emotionally disturbed pursuant to Board of Education regulations; SB 1306 which removed the controversial I-95 boundary line that divided the attendance zones for both Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in Hampton and Staunton; and a budget amendment to include $150,000 for additional outreach service for the Deaf.

   
VAD hosted the 45th Biennial NAD Conference at Norfolk Waterside July 3-8, 2000.

In 2000, VAD hosted the 45th Biennial NAD Conference at Norfolk Waterside July 3-8, 2000.  Ralph Kiser received VAD's first annual Deaf Father of the Year award, and Brenda Carper, the Deaf Mother of the Year award.  The sales of Top Ten Reasons for Learning Sign Language t-shirts netted VAD $25,000 for the NAD Conference.

In 2001, the first VAD-VRID Joint Conference was held in Richmond; the conference theme was "Unity." Torii Deaner was crowned Miss Deaf Virginia 2001-2003.  Cecil Prillaman, Sr., received the Deaf Father of the Year award, and Mrs. Kathryn Neighbors, the Deaf Mother of the Year award.  VAD lobbied for insurance coverage on hearing aid, but the bill was defeated in the General Assembly.  VAD received a copyright certificate from the U.S. Copyright Office for the Top Ten Reasons for Learning Sign Language, which is in effect for 75 years.  VAD continues to sell t-shirts to raise funds for a leadership training program for VAD members.

In 2002, the second VAD-VRID Joint Conference took place in Norfolk; the theme was "Unity II."  Shirley Werner and Fred Yates were chosen as the Deaf Mother and Father of the Year 2002.  VAD participated in the FestEvents at Norfolk Waterside twice. VAD supported the police visor project conducted by VDDHH, Virginia Dept. of Motor Vehicles, and the Virginia Associated of Police and Sheriffs.

In 2003, VAD hosted the 53rd Biennial VAD Conference in Fairfax, VA.  Amy Tussing was crowned Miss Deaf Virginia 2003-05.  VAD disagreed with the Wilder Commission's recommendation to consolidate the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Virginia Department for Blind and Visually Impaired, and the Virginia Department of Rehabilitation Services into one state agency, and VAD was able to convince the Governor to act against it.  Ruth Tester and Allen Justice were chosen as Deaf Mother and Deaf Father of the Year, respectively.

In 2004, the Apple Valley Chapter became the sixth Chapter of VAD; this chapter represents the Winchester and northern Shenandoah Valley region.  Amy Tussing, Miss Deaf Virginia, won the Miss Congeniality Award at the Miss Deaf America Pageant in Kansas City.  VAD members participated in a protest against the consolidation of the State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind at Hampton and at Staunton, and some members testified in statewide Task Force hearings.

In 2005, the 54th Biennial VAD Conference took place at Roanoke June 23-26.  The highlights were a Hillbilly Dinner Cruise on the Smith Mountain Lake and the Miss Deaf Virginia Pageant.  Kathryn Jane McGhee of Midlothian, VA, was crowned Miss Deaf Virginia 2005-07.  VAD, with the help of the Virginia Association of the Blind and supporting friends, successfully stopped a bill  in the General Assembly to consolidate three state agencies: the Virginia Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired; the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing; and the Virginia Department of Rehabilitation Services.  VAD continues to watch the Task Force on the future consolidation of the two State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind at Hampton and Staunton.  VAD started a campaign to get the state legislators to use state funds toward renovating the Staunton campus for the consolidated school instead of building a new campus outside Staunton.  VAD supported a legislative bill that would require health insurance to cover hearing tests and new hearing aids for adults and children, but the bill unfortunately was tabled in the General Assembly for the fourth consecutive year.  Dorothea Handy and Elrice Daniels were chosen as Deaf Mother and Deaf Father of the Year, respectively.  NVAD celebrated its 60th anniversary with a buffet dinner in October.

In 2006, the Governor vetoed the House Bill 350 and Senate Bill 676 that, if passed, would consolidate the two schools for the deaf and blind into one school in Staunton, provide for a continuing regional program in Hampton, and convey the existing Hampton property to a specific nonprofit entity.  The Deaf Mother and Deaf Father of the Year were Donna DeVito and Glenn Patterson, respectively.  The Piedmont Chapter celebrated its 60th anniversary with a banquet in Lynchburg in September.

In 2007, the 55th Biennial VAD Conference was held at Colonial Williamsburg July 19-22 in observance of the 400th Anniversary of the Founding of Jamestown, with the Hampton Roads Chapter as the host chapter.  The conference highlights were a walking tour of the Jamestown Settlement,  the VAD Storytelling Contest, and the Miss Deaf Virginia Pageant.  Mike Marzolf was recognized as the Master Storyteller, and Christy Bowers of Roanoke, VA, was crowned as Miss Deaf Virginia 2007-09.  Fred Yates, always an acclaimed historian, gave a talk at the membership meeting about the 1907 Jamestown Exposition that commemorated the 300th Anniversary of the Founding of Jamestown.  The General Assembly instructed the State Board of Education to implement the consolidation of the Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind at Staunton and for the Deaf, Blind and Multi-disabled at Hampton into a renovated campus at Staunton, with Hampton students to move to the Staunton campus in the summer of 2008.  The DeafNation Expo was held in Richmond for the first time.  Nancy Rarus and Steven Chough were chosen as the Deaf Mother and Deaf Father of the Year.  The VAD ASL T-Shirt Committee celebrated its 10th Anniversary with 10% discounts in t-shirt sales.


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