Deaf and institutionalised?


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15 November 2019


Scientific publication

Deaf and institutionalised?

In their article, Sofie De Veirman and Isabelle Devos compare the lives of deaf people with those of their brothers and sisters. Their analysis, based on data from the DEAF database, shows that, despite the growing degree of institutionalisation, this was not an obvious choice for deaf persons. A person’s place of residence, marital status and the presence of close relatives were important factors in institutionalisation. Unmarried people who lived in the city were more institutionalised than deaf people with siblings from a middle-class environment. Nonetheless, poverty did not necessarily drive deaf people to an institution. The results of De Veirmans and Devos’ research mainly suggest a strong interaction between formal (institutional) and informal care (family).


De Veirman, Sofie, and Isabelle Devos. “Alle wegen leiden naar een instelling? Institutionaliseringstrajecten van Oost-Vlaamse Doven, 1750-1950. (Do all roads lead to an institution? Institutionalisation pathways of East Flemish Deaf people, 1750-1950)” Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 132, no. 2 (2019): 203–30.


Comparing the life courses of deaf people with those of their siblings, we examine in this article the institutionalisation trajectories of deaf people in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century East Flanders. Despite an increase in institutionalisation in the nineteenth century, our analysis shows that institutionalisation was not an obvious life course event. Individual characteristics such as place of residence, marital status, and the presence of close family members were important factors for one’s opportunities for institutionalisation, especially at a young age. Whereas living in the city and being unmarried favoured institutionalisation, deaf people with siblings and from a middle-class environment were less likely to be institutionalised. Nevertheless, poverty did not necessarily drive deaf people into an institution. Our results suggest, above all, a strong interaction between formal (institution) and informal care (family). The fact that many deaf people were urban singles, mainly because of the presence of deaf schools in the cities, probably contributed to their higher rate of institutionalisation in later life.