NDCS does Disability History Month – Part 2


Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

This is my second blog on the history of the National Deaf Children’s Society as a contribution to  UK Disability History MonthMy first blog covered the first 20 years of NDCS’s history from 1944 to 1964. This second blog starts in 1965, the year when the post office tower opened, the Beatles released the film Help and the government asks local authorities to convert all mainstream schools into comprehensive schools.


To advance early identification of deafness, NDCS purchases for the Institute of Otology and Laryngology an Enhancetron computer which enable more accurate assessments of young children’s hearing and aided early identification of deafness.


An image from the 1960s campaign ‘if your teddy bear is deaf’, illustrating how to communicate with deaf children


The campaign to replace small all age schools for the deaf and replace them with separate primary and secondary schools is successfully concluded.


A campaign win, with the Ministry of Health agreeing that children would be issued post-aural hearing (behind the ears) aids. Over 11,000 were imported from Denmark and girls aged 14 to 16 years were the first to have them fitted.

NDCS appoints a field officer to support the regional associations (parent groups) affiliated to NDCS.

Successful campaign by parents in Wales to get Llandrindod School moved so that it was accessible to deaf children (I am afraid our records don’t tell us why it had to move but it was important enough for parents to organise  a protest march to achieve their objective).

NDCS challenges BBC TV over its refusal to use captions in the belief that deaf children could not read them. NDCS also asks BBC to use words as well as signing in special programmes specifically for deaf children to avoid giving the mistaken impression that all deaf children were non oral.


The Enhancetron computer proved to be successful so the Medical Research Council provides funding for 3 further years.

NDCS funds research into the usefulness of hearing aids for partially hearing children in schools and audiological assessments of 11 year olds.

The Lewis Committee set up by the government  published its report on the “Education of Deaf Children: the possible place of finger spelling and signing”.  To the disappointment of a number of charities for deaf people, the report was inconclusive. It recommended that more research be done into whether the introduction of manual communication was desirable. On the whole the report left the methods of teaching deaf children unchanged.



Jack Ashley MP and Hugh Rossi MP at the launch of the Sympathetic Hearing Scheme


Fed up with the lack of government progress in implementing the recommendations of the Lewis report, NDCS decides to support research into combined methods of communication in teaching deaf children.


Taking up the concerns of parents about their children’s secondary education, Jack Ashley MP criticises the Minister for Education, Edward Short, and the Dept of Education for their “breathtaking complacency”. 


NDCS along with the RNID, BDA and British Association of the Hard of Hearing form the “Panel of Four” to meet annually with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Services. Issues raised included multi-disciplinary assessment of deaf children, psychiatric provision and the supply of hearing aids.


In advance of a major re-organisation of local government boundaries in England in 1974, local parent groups agreed to contact every local authority to ensure the education of deaf children was part of their planning and to suggest what needed to be included in their plans.

Parents groups in Northern Ireland gain a commitment from the authorities to establish 3 hearing support units in mainstream schools.

NDCS successfully challenges the decision by the government to exclude children who were deaf from the effects of thalidomide from a fund set up to help children who were disabled as a result of the drug.


NDCS provides funding towards holiday centre run by the Break Trust for deaf children in care whose parents did not welcome them home during school holidays.

Margaret Thatcher, Secretary of State for Education, announces a review of education provision in England, Scotland and Wales for disabled children. The review was chaired by Baroness Warnock.


NDCS submits evidence to the Warnock Committee.

Department of Health and Social Security enlists NDCS’s help to promote the rubella vaccine to parents because of concerns over low take up.

David Heap, NDCS’s Regional Director for the West Midlands reaches the age


A young David Heap, Regional Director for the West Midlands

of 5 but the
local authority refuses to offer him a place in a local mainstream school. Only when his parents threatened to leave him in the Council’s offices was the problem resolved and he started in a local primary school rather than being sent to a residential special school.


The Dept of Health and Social Security agrees to NDCS’s suggestion that specialist diagnostic teams for deaf children be established.


NDCS establishes a club for the siblings of deaf children to recognise the major role they played in the life of deaf children.


NDCS renews its campaign to see the early identification of deafness in children at a conference of parents in Manchester who presented a petition to the Minister for Health Albert Booth. This was a longstanding campaign theme over the next 30 years that came to a successful conclusion when 2006 saw the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme became operating in all areas of the UK.

Money from a Blue Peter appeal funded mobile classrooms equipped with recent technology. They were driven by teachers visiting isolated deaf children.


NDCS organises the biggest ever exhibition of equipment and technology for deaf children accompanied by a discussion paper of Deaf Children and their Hearing Aids.


NDCS introduces its first Use of Hearing Aids course for parents of deaf children.

To raise funds NDCS produces “Christmas with the Stars” record featuring songs sang by Harry Secombe, Max Bygraves and Des O’Connor.

The first issue of NDCS Week was published with the purpose of supporting parents who had set up local groups for families with deaf children.


NDCS appoints a professional advisor on careers to help young deaf people into employment.


There were now 120 groups of parents affiliated to NDCS. Their main preoccupation was dealing with the consequences of reduced public spending plans of the government  and a number had to spearhead a fight to save local provision.  (I will be writing much the same thing when I reach the period  2010-2016).

Darth Vader[1] launched the Deafrienders Scheme and became the first General Deafriender. The scheme ended 5 years later as it was felt that time had moved on deaf children had to be seen to be independent people who choose their own friends.

NDCS also started a study into the particular needs of deaf children in black and minority ethnic communities and deaf children with an additional needs.


NDCS challenges the Dept of Health and Social Security over the by health services requirement that parents should pay the cost of insuring their child’s hearing aids. The Dept stated it opposed this practice but was slow in issuing guidance to local health services on this matter.

The Education Act which set out duties on local authorities to identify, assess and make special provision for children with special educational needs received Royal Assent. NDCS attempted to influence the accompany regulations and guidance. It gained some assurances on the involvement of qualified Teachers of the Deaf in the assessment of a deaf child’s needs.


NDCS received from the government’s Manpower Services Commission (MSC) a “Fit to Work” award. 6 of the 13 staff were disabled. The MSC said “this is one of the smallest organisations ever to be given this award. There is a great deal of competition. It is particularly nice to see a society practising what it preaches”. 


NDCS publishes Undiscovered Deafness to draw attention to the half million children experiencing temporary deafness through otitis media (glue ear). It attracted a lot of media coverage.

NDCS joins forces with the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf and the British Deaf Association to oppose government proposals to scrap the requirement for Teachers of the Deaf to have a specialist qualification.

[1] Well it was not the real Darth Vader but the actor Dave Prowse (also the green cross code man) who played the role in the Star Wars movie. The real Darth Vader lived on another planet!

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