At a get-together of Deaf Residents at ASDB, Angelia Watson, then president of Phoenix Silent Clubs, led a business meeting on April 25th. There, a motion to establish a state-wide deaf association passed. That action gave birth to the Arizona Association of the Deaf (AAD).

1938 and 1940

The first state convention was held in Tucson. Tom Singleton was elected president.
The second convention was held in Phoenix at Hotel Adams. Ed Abodeely was elected president.


From the start of World War II until 1958 for a total of 14 years, AAD was inactive.


After going through reorganization, AAD was officially reactivated on August 30, 1958. Its first logo was established. AAD hosted a celebratory banquet and dance in 1959.

In the 1970’s

AAD enlisted support from and worked with different agencies to establish the Arizona Council for the Hearing Impaired (ACHI), now known as the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH). It was finally signed into law in 1977.


AAD addressed concerns of PL 94-142 (mainstreaming in school in AZ) and its impact on ASDB.


The first TDD (TTY) Relay Service for the Deaf was set up under the leadership of AAD President Richard Hall. The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation provided the space and interpreters volunteered their time with no pay.

In the 1980’s

AAD joined with other organizations in a National Protest Day against CBS for lack of captioning on its TV programs. That action led to the result of Line 21 (the lower part of the TV screen) reserved for closed captioning for all networks.


AAD pushed for legislative action that 51% of the ACDHI (now ACDHH) Board be represented by the Deaf/HH. It passed into law in 1989 and was signed by Governor Mofford.

In the 1990’s

AAD pushed for live-captioning for local TV channels rather than pre-recorded only.


In 1993, the acronym, AAD, was changed to AzAD to reduce confusion with three other states whose names also start with “A”.


AzAD worked with ASU’s ADA Stadium Committee to add captioning on the large screen in the stadium. It was implemented in 1997.

AzAD maintained a vigilant watch over two critical vacant positions —Superintendent of ASDB and Executive Director of ADHI. As a result, Ken Randall was chosen as superintendent and Sherri Collins as executive director.

In the 2000’s

A new logo was unveiled.


Rapid technological changes resulted in “paperless records.” The first website was established.


AzAD was actively involved with the establishment of a retirement home for deaf senior citizens with Tom Posedly leading the effort as president of AzAD and chair of the ADSCC Board. The doors opened in 2011.


The Bill for Educational Rights for Deaf/HH/DeafBlind students passed as a resolution in the Legislature.


AzAD initiated an annual Deaf Festival in the Phoenix or Tucson areas. Festival activities included exhibitions, performances, workshops and Saturday Night Entertainment.

In the 2010’s

AzAD won the bid for NAD’s biennial conference to be held in 2018. A historic first in AZ.
The delegates pushed for fair housing as a top NAD priority with success.


AzAD was involved in the student protest to remove ASDB Supt. Robert Hill.


AzAD was awarded grants for the Voter Registration Drive, the performance of “The Deafhood Monologues” and an expanded three-day state conference.


In 2015, a new logo was launched. The third one in the history of AZAD. AZAD spelled in all CAPs.


AZAD pushed for an inclusive search process leading to the selection of Annette Reichman, the first Deaf woman superintendent of ASDB.

AZAD helped organize the Deaf Grassroots Movement AZ Rally at the Capitol in 2016.


AZAD Awards in honor of four Deaf pioneers and AZAD leaders were established. The first awards were presented at the 80th Anniversary Gala in December 2016.


A series of documentaries about the Deaf in Arizona was produced and released.

AZAD was active in the national LEAD-K movement. SB 1092 was signed into law in September 2021: It authorizes the ACDHH to take oversight responsibility for making recommendations related to language assessment and literacy development for Deaf/HH/DeafBlind students in Arizona.

Common themes and patterns in our history

  • Constant review & change in AZAD operations to keep up with times
  • Social gatherings and celebrations
  • Technological advances and social media
  • Core values of diversity and youth
  • Watchdog for legislative actions
  • ASL as a basic human right
  • Collaborations with different organizations and agencies
  • Close ties with ASDB

Arizona & the Deaf: History, Education & Organization

Part 1: The Deaf Migration to Arizona

Part 2: The Birth and Shaping of Arizona Association of the Deaf 1936-2016

Series of "Did You Know That..?"
(in ASL and CC)

Charles Clifford Griffin- The first recorded Deaf migrant to Arizona

Henry White-- The first Deaf administrator of ASDB

Angela Watson-- As president of Phoenix Silent Club, leader of effort to found AZAD

William Wherry-- First president of Phoenix Silent Club in 1927 and long time Deaf leader