Exclusive interviews with contemporary newsmakers                  

John Fletcher Egbert
Founder of the Deaf Bilingual Coalition

A native of Jackson, Mississippi, John Egbert was born to hearing parents, but had a deaf brother, Billy, 20 months his senior. His parents had been counseled not to use sign language with the boys, so they were enrolled in a succession of oral schools. First came the Chinchuba School for the Deaf in Marrero, near New Orleans, Louisiana. "I was their poster child," he says, recalling that almost every Friday, the school gave public demonstrations to hearing audiences.

At Chinchuba, he was stationed at a back blackboard, writing down endless series of multiplication tables while the teacher worked with the other students, who had a tougher time understanding her. "Even though I had a 75-decibel loss, I had the talent of picking up what the teachers were saying."

After third grade, John and Billy were transferred to a hearing Catholic school, without any support services. "No longer a poster child, I became an instant nobody. . . . I missed a lot of what the teachers were saying." After 45 days of this, they were transferred to the public John Davison School in Algiers, just over the river from New Orleans. A special-ed teacher worked with the school's eight or so deaf children. John and Billy commuted to school via bus and ferry each morning, and as they didn't get much help from their parents, were each other's support system. They explored New Orleans together, caught snakes in the swamps, and constructed treehouses and go-karts.

John attended public school until 11th grade, and entered Gallaudet College . . . and got his first exposure to ASL. "Learning ASL changed my life," he says. "I accepted myself as a Deaf person and became much happier."

He married a Gallaudet classmate, and they started a new family—two deaf children, Clyde and Stella. They were enrolled in a school for the deaf. John became increasingly concerned about the quality of education they were getting. Some 70 percent of their classmates were from mainstreamed backgrounds and didn't have any prior exposure to ASL. The kids learned it from each other instead of from the teachers. Although the school required students to attend speech-therapy sessions, almost all of them hated it because they were pulled out of their regular classes for it, and considered it a waste of time. They wanted more education, not more speech training. Yet this same school offered no classes in ASL. And this wasn't just a situation unique to this school or the state policy—it was happening all over the nation!

And the superintendent told him that hearing parents were the dominant force in deaf-ed.

This motivated him to write and publish a novel, MindField, but then he realized that it wouldn't reach the majority of those whom he wanted to reach, so he "decided to start a grassroots movement" to advocate for the right of deaf babies to have full and immediate access to sign language as the best way to develop visual-communication skills, cognition, "to learn how to learn."

The grassroots movement he founded, the Deaf Bilingual Coalition, held its first national conference in Milwaukee, June 27-30, attracting several hundred attendees, Deaf and hearing, from across the nation and Canada. John participated, of course, doing person-to-person outreach with AGBell conference attendees. He urges parents to sign to their deaf children, to learn sign language, embrace it, use it as a basis for learning language skills. They'll be glad they did.

He's been through it all; he knows what he's talking about.


Deaf Person of the Year
Robert Davila
John Yeh
Luke Adams
Robert Davila
John Yeh
Luke Adams
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2019
January 2019
February 2019
March 2019
April 2019
May 2019
June 2018
Laurene E. Simms -  Deaf Person of Year phototab
Nadmionor Caisano phototab
Storm Smith phototab
Robb Dooling phototab
July 2019
August 2019
September 2019
October 2019
November 2019
December 2019
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2018
January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018
July 2018
August 2018
September 2018
October 2018
November 2018
December 2018
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2017
January 2017
February 2017
March 2017
April 2017
May 2017
June 2017
July 2017
August 2017
September 2017
October 2017
November 2017
December 2017
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2016
January 2016
February 2016
March 2016
April 2016
May 2016
June 2016
July 2016
August 2016
September 2016
October 2016
November 2016
December 2016
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2015
January 2015
February 2015
March 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2014
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
July 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2013
January 2013
February 2013
March 2013
April 2013
May 2013
June 2013
John Yeh
July 2013
August 2013
September 2013
October 2013
November 2013
December 2013
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2012
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
John Yeh
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
November 2012
December 2012
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2011
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
John Yeh
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2010
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
John Yeh
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2009
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
John Yeh
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2008
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
Robert Davila
Kevin Frost
Ed Bosson
Leon Lim
John Yeh
Marlee Matin
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
Deaf Person of the Month: archives 2007
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
Robert R. Davila
Lizzie Sorkin
E. Lynn Jacobowitz
Joey Baer
Donald Tinsley, Sr.
Howie Seago
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
Bernard Bragg
Alice Hagemeyer
Carole Lazorisak
Ben Soukup
Tony Saccente
Fred Beam

Any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns you’d like to share?  Contact us at editor@deafpeople.com.
Copyright © 2007 - 2018 MSM Productions Ltd. All Rights Reserved.