Abbé Charles Michel de l'Épée of Paris founded the first free school for deaf people in 1755.
He demonstrated that deaf people could develop communication with themselves and the hearing world through a system of conventional gestures, hand signs, and fingerspelling.
He first recognized and learned the signs that were already being used by deaf people in Paris and then developed his sign system. He added a signed version of spoken French.
Influences and survival of institution
On July 29, 1791 the school was renamed the Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris, which it remains and is active to this day. However, today the institution uses French Sign Language in its educational practices, as opposed to Manual French. Approximately, twenty-one additional schools were later opened in European and other countries, using educational methods inspired by Épée's original vision.