Swiss Federation of the Deaf celebrates its 75th anniversary

This article has been updated 23 2022,

Hope Capone version

“Everyone forgot about us. At the peak of the pandemic, deaf people were completely deprived of any access to vital information. Anxiety is in the air,” said Tatjana Binggeli, president of the Swiss Federation of the Deaf, in an interview with

But before we get into the pressing issues, let's go back to February 17, 1946, when eight deaf associations from the German-speaking part of Switzerland, fed up with being pushed around, joined forces to give the deaf a chance to be heard. In the same year, eight more associations joined them, including one from the French-speaking part of Switzerland and one from the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.

“Because of their disability, the deaf were massively discriminated against by society. Moreover, they did not have the right to vote of their own, and control over them was entrusted to people without hearing impairments who acted as guardians,” Binggeli explained through a sign language interpreter at the federation’s headquarters in Zurich.

The situation for the deaf in Switzerland remained bleak. They were supposed to be morally unstable, especially women. There were fears that they could be promiscuous and, God forbid, "bring in the hem." The publication, published on the occasion of the federation's 75th anniversary, said deaf people were accused of being stubborn, quick-tempered and often conflicted in the workplace.

Figures and facts
Even audiology pioneer Eugen Sutermeister, who founded the Swiss Benevolent Association for the Deaf and Dumb (now Sonos), did not consider himself a positive person. In his Six Rules for Communicating with Deaf-Mute Adults, written in 1900 for non-deaf people, he says that the hearing person must "be patient with the deaf person and all his weaknesses" and that "the deaf person's defects of character are rooted in his affliction. ".

Charitable organizations have taken the principled position of "fatherly care" in relation to the deaf. Their paternalism was to help in finding a job, resolving disputes at work and in everyday life, but they did not deal with issues of overcoming isolation and promoting independence of the deaf and hard of hearing. Sometimes deaf people were placed under guardianship, and they needed the guardian's permission to change jobs or get married.

“Deaf people were completely excluded from education,” Binggeli said. “It started in elementary school, where they were not taught sign language, and continued for the rest of their lives. We are still facing this problem."

Binggeli was an enviable exception. She was born deaf and attended various deaf schools before moving on to secondary school in Bern at age 17, where she studied with hearing students. However, the director of the school believed that people with disabilities (that's what the deaf in his mind were) could not study in a regular school.

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