Description about the painting:
This painting is about International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) in Milan, Italy, 1880, when sign language was proclaimed banned and oralism became the law in Deaf schools. See Milan 1880 resolutions.
The hands are chopped off and laid on the table for display. The hands represent the six Americans who came to Milan Congress in 1880. They are James Denison, Edward Miner Gallaudet, Thomas Gallaudet, Jr., Isaac Lewis Peet and Charles Stoddard. The hands symbolizes "N" for NO to Eugenics, "A S L" for American Sign Language, "Incompatible," and "Express." These are expression in sign language to show emotions that the six Americans went through when oralism became law.
There is a hidden giant elephant that represents Alexander Graham Bell and his associates, meaning the Elephant in the Deaf Room. The steps to the door on the upper right corner represents the stairway to Oralism.
The quote is written on a blackboard by Robert P. McGregor:
"What heinous crime have the deaf been guilty of that their language should be proscribed?...By whom then are signs proscribed? By...educators of the deaf who boast is that they do not understand signs and do not want to....by parents who do not understand the requisites to the happiness of their deaf children...Professing to have no object in view but the benefit of the deaf, [educators] exhibit an utter contempt for the opinions, the wishes, the desires of the deaf. And why should we not be consulted in a matter of such vital interest to us? This is a question no man has yet answered satisfactorily.”
-Robert P. McGregor First NAD President and Educator
The quote says— what did the Deaf people do, that rejected their rights, their language and they are being punished by them? It was totally unfair. There was no answer that would satisfy them and it still does today. See Patti Durr's vlog "Milan 1880 Language Bigotry."