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Hereditary Deafness on Martha’s Vineyard

What constitutes a disability? Most of us would say it’s the lack of one or more physical powers. But perhaps “disability” is a subjective term. Perhaps it is more dependent on society than on the individual. For more than two hundred and fifty years, the population of Martha’s Vineyard experienced a phenomenal incidence of congenital deafness. In the nineteenth century, and probably before then, the incidence was more than thirty-five times the national average. How did they cope with such an onslaught of disabled persons? Did they build separate schools and separate institutions...

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