Passing of Dr. Harlan Lane, outspoken advocate for the Deaf community

[Transcript] Passing of Dr. Harlan Lane, outspoken advocate for the Deaf community

Dr. Harlan Lane, a hearing American psycholinguist, who advocated for the rights of deaf people, passed away at the age of 82 on July 13th.

Dr. Lane’s contribution was mainly important for deaf studies and disability studies. He was best known for his published books “When the Mind Hears” and “A Journey Into the Deaf World” co-authoring with Dr. Ben Bahan and Dr. Robert J. Hoffmeister.

Dr. Lane was the founder Center for Research in Hearing, Speech, and Language. His research was focused on psychology, linguistics, neurolinguistics, speech processing, and signed languages.

He was a professor of Psychology at Northeastern University in Boston. He was often the outspoken advocate for the Deaf community and used his research to oppose cochlear implant for the deaf.

His research has shaped our Deaf community in many ways.

The Daily Moth reached out to Dr. Octavian Robinson, disability studies scholar and historian, to explain the impact of Dr. Lane’s work in our community. Dr. Robinson mentioned that it is a bittersweet feeling of Dr. Lane’s departure. Dr. Lane was a long time ally for the Deaf community. He was one of the earliest scholars to discuss audism. Dr. Robinson said that the Deaf community has always been around for a long time, Dr. Lane did not create something new or discovered something new about the Deaf community, but he used his privileges (i.e. his degree, his status) as a platform to help frame what being deaf means. Dr. Lane discussed about how deaf people should not be categorized as “disabled.” While Dr. Robinson respects Dr. Lane’s work, he mentions that Dr. Lane offered only one type framework of what being deaf means. Dr. Robinson says today, we can see how diverse our deaf people are with many different backgrounds in our community, this means we can revisit Dr. Lane’s framework and expand this framework to be more inclusive.

We reached out to MJ Bienvenu, a friend of Dr. Lane to share a comment.


Harlan Lane was a fighter for the rights of Deaf people, not only in the USA but also in Burundi and several other places, and a well known advocate all over the world. He believed in ASL and gave Marie J.Philip, Ella Lentz and others an opportunity to teach ASL at Northeastern University and it grew over the years. His books changed many people’s perspective on Deaf people. I appreciate the lunches we had while he was doing his research at Gallaudet. I watched his presentations and they were always strong and true. He is already missed by many of us. Rest in Peace, Harlan.

Ben Jarashow is a Deaf Studies professor and he shared a comment about Dr. Lane’s work in the Deaf studies field.


Harlan Lane’s work was not only seen in the Deaf history field, but also seen in the fields of Deaf Studies, oppression, disability politics, and so much more. His work really covered a lot of areas. I thank him for being a great ally of our community. - Ben Jarashow, Deaf Studies professor.

Dr. Lane was awarded the Commandeur de l’Ode des Palmes, Académiques the highest level of honor given by the French Government.

Deaf Life magazine will do a tribute on Dr. Lane for the September issue.


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