Many hearing-impaired people are illiterate, unemployed and under-employed due to widespread prejudice by the general public and a lack, especially in developing countries, of the basic tools for rehabilitation (such as education in lipreading, and hearing aids). Special education, when it exists, is often disregarded or postponed. As a rule the deaf are taught a manual art or craft, regardless of their individual attitudes and preferences; vocational pre-counselling and counselling systems are neglected and often the choice is confined to the three or four trades taught in the school workshop.
The history of the education of the deaf begins properly in the 16th century. Before this time those born deaf were the subject of philosophic speculation but it was generally assumed that they were incapable of education. However, despite increasing interest, it was only in 1778 in Leipzig, Germany, that the first state school for deaf children was opened. One year later the state school for deaf children in Vienna was founded. The deaf were the first group of handicapped children to receive special education.