Helen Keller supposedly said (or wrote) the following, or words very close to it:
Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.
We have never been able to trace this quotation to its original source, if indeed it was ever expressed in that form. However, Keller did express this same idea, in different words, at least twice. One occurrence appears in her Helen Keller in Scotland: a personal record written by herself, edited by James Kerr Love (London: Methuen & Co., 1933). On page 68, in a 1910 letter written to Dr. Kerr Love and reprinted in this book, she wrote:
The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important, than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus--the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.
This excerpt from Keller's letter is also reprinted in Grant, Brian, ed., The quiet ear: deafness in literature, an anthology (London: Andre Deutsch, 1987), p.36-37.
For another occurrence, the article by Jean Christie, "Keller, Helen", in the Gallaudet encyclopedia of deaf people and deafness(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1987, vol.2, p.125), quotes Keller:
To a commonly posed question, Keller in her advancing years replied that she had concluded "after a lifetime in silence and darkness that to be deaf is a greater affliction than to be blind...Hearing is the soul of knowledge and information of a high order. To be cut off from hearing is to be isolated indeed."
Christie does not cite when or where this was originally said, but newspaper clippings in the Gallaudet University Archives show that it was said on June 21, 1955, in a pre-75th birthday interview at her home in Arcan Ridge, Connecticut.
* * * * * * * * * *Prepared by Tom Harrington
Reference and Instruction Librarian