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Trail blazers for deaf representation

by Sam Smith The media is constantly being pushed to be more diverse and inclusive of all groups, but it seems deaf people are often overlooked. When they are included, it is important that they are portrayed accurately because it not only educates people that do not know about deaf people, but it also gives young deaf people characters they can relate to and look up to. The National Association of the Deaf said, “Media representations lack authenticity and present a distorted view of the deaf and hard of hearing community, and this misrepresentation deprives the public of an accurate understanding of a community that is rich in culture and language.” While representation for deaf people in the media could be much better, there are several deaf people who have been representing the community very well.

Nyle DiMarco

Image from Nyle DiMarco
Nyle DiMarco was the first deaf winner of America’s Next Top Model. He was also the first deaf winner of Dancing with the Stars. He changed the way many people perceive deaf people. He is an activist for the deaf community, especially for deaf children. He started the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, which strives to give deaf children access to sign language at an early age.

Marlee Matlin

Image from IMDb
Marlee Matlin is the youngest woman to ever win an Oscar for best actress. She won for her role in Children of a Lesser God. She is also the only deaf person to ever win an Oscar. She is an active member of the National Association of the Deaf. She has been in several TV shows including Family Guy, Law & Order: SVU and Sesame Street. She has also written four books.

Sean Berdy 

Image from IMDb
Sean Berdy is best known for his role as Emmett in the show Switched at Birth. Many credit Berdy with giving them a reason to learn sign language. Berdy was also involved in the first ever attempt at a sign along feature for a movie. Ice Age: Continental Drift had an option where viewers could watch the movie and see Berdy and Amber Zion sign along with what the characters in the movie were saying. This has caused a push for other movies to do the same so deaf children can follow along easier with movies.

Millicent Simmonds 

Image from IMDb
Millicent Simmonds is best known for starring as Regan Abbott in the hit movie A Quiet Place. The director, John Krasinski, fought to cast Simmonds as his on-screen daughter to keep the movie authentic. This made many people in the deaf community excited for the movie, likely helping it to be such a box office hit. Simmonds’ amazing role helps show that casting deaf people to play deaf characters is important, not only for the story, but for the people the character will represent.

Chella Man

Image from Hearing Like Me
Chella Man is a deaf transgender activist, artist, model and now, actor. He was recently cast to play Jericho in the DC show, Titans. Man has constantly spoken out about disabilities and representation. He feels that his role in Titans is imperative for representation, not only for the deaf but also for transgender people. He is also the first deaf and transgender person to be signed with the modeling agency IMG. These are just a few amazing examples of deaf people in the spotlight. All five of these people are talented and have helped shape the way many view the deaf community. Hopefully their success can help pave the way for better representation for deaf people in the media in the future.
Sources: The National Association of the Deaf, Nyle DiMarco Foundation, The Sign Language Company, Huffington Post, Glaad Images: IMDb, Hearing Like Me, Nyle DiMarco  Featured Image: Sam Smith