Category Archives: Deafness in Hollywood

The Rise #DeafTalent

deaftalent-hollywood-deaf-disabled-actors-actresses-talent-01Under mounting pressure from a wide variety of demographics who feel underrepresented in film and television, the entertainment industry is finally beginning to show signs of diversity. It is important to recognize that this gradual movement toward a multicultural media is only the result of long and tiresome grassroots efforts. The fight for representation touches people from all cultural minority groups, and intersects in a powerful way. Here, we do not see change coming from the top down, but rather from the bottom up — we, the people, are dictating what the future of film and television will look like.

Considering National Association for the Deaf (NAD) is the oldest civil rights organization in the United States, it’s easy to see that the American Deaf community has long been involved with the fight for social justice. In film and television, specifically, there have been a number of highly influential Deaf actors who have left lasting impacts on audiences of all ability. One of the most well-known examples is Linda Bove, who exposed many generations of children to deafness and ASL during her 30 year role as Linda the Librarian on public television’s Sesame Street.

deaftalent-deaf-actors-actresses-talent-diversity-hollywood-02Over the past two years, the Deaf community has been actively pushing for greater cultural awareness through the #DeafTalent movement. #DeafTalent was started as a way for actors, performers, and directors who are deaf to push back against an industry that continuously hires hearing individuals when a deaf individual would be a much more appropriate choice. Why cast a hearing actor to play a deaf role? Why hire a hearing director to offer a deaf perspective? There are plenty of exceptionally talented deaf individuals seeking exactly this type of work, who would truly enrich any creative project.

The existence of #DeafTalent effectively removes any excuse people might have for culturally negligent hiring. Popularized by director Jules Dameron, the hashtag and social media presence has become one way to connect casting directors, investors, and so on with the deaf community. It shines a very clear spotlight on the problems in the industry and Dameron, herself, even offers up solutions on how to create true diversity in film and TV.

deaftalent-deaf-actors-actresses-diversity-hollywood-03“Much of our inspiration today built on previous movements such as the historic 1988 Deaf President Now (DPN) movement at Gallaudet University which led to the passage of the ADA bill in 1990,” Charmaine Hlibok, Director of Fundraising at Mark Seven Deaf Foundation explains. “DPN will celebrate its 30th anniversary next March, and today’s deaf children have many more opportunities today than many of us had.”

Without constant labor from advocacy groups, mainstream film and TV would probably never deviate from reinforcing the white, cisgendered, able-bodied, heterosexual male perspective as status quo. Like other minority groups, people who are d/Deaf/HoH couldn’t just wait around expecting Hollywood to change. For generations, performers, writers, directors, and filmmakers have been creating their own inclusive artistic communities, laying the foundation for the success of the activist efforts of today.

deaftalent-deaf-diversity-hollywood-talent-04Set to make a bicostal debut on Saturday, March 25 with premier events in both Los Angeles and New York City, The Strength Within You short film series is the first, and certainly not the last, of its kind. Inspired greatly by the #DeafTalent movement, The Strength Within You series features an exciting roster of Deaf talent in each of five films (both in front of and behind the camera). The film project was coordinated by filmmaker and producer Katia Belas as a way to explore various social issues and taboos— from domestic violence to LGBTQ rights— through a slightly different lens than audiences are used to seeing.

After being away from the film industry for 13 years, Belas, who is a Brazilian immigrant, found it impossible to make a career. “People looked down at me and would see only an old stupid, no-talent, no-vision, no-good-for-anything person.” Belas found herself working internships so she could learn how to utilize the new methods of media distribution that had come about during her hiatus. Like so many others trying to break through in the film and TV industry, she quietly endured instances of discrimination while networking and developing her craft. Finally, one day, she saw a film that opened her eyes to an alternative. Instead of waiting for an opportunity to make an impact, she had to create that opportunity herself!

deaftalent-deaf-diversity-hollywood-talent-05“It was a very short 1:54 minute silent film (almost a PSA) done by 2 amazing Deaf talents called ‘CIG.’ I saw it and thought: that is what I will do for me, and for people who, like me, are also seen as the ‘stupid, no-talent, no-good for anything’ in this world,” Belas explains. “Being involved with Deaf people for 3 years, I had already decided that my main goal when working in the industry was to work with Deaf Talents. So I just put 2 and 2 together, and came up with the idea to make this series.”

“It is a series of empowering, uplifting, humanity messages created by a team of Deaf and hearing filmmakers,” continues Belas. “Short films done with Deaf talents, proving to the world that we (Deaf, immigrants, older people) have talents, we are not stupid, and we can do anything regardless of anything, age, disability, language.”

Filmmaker Jade Bryan has been working for more than a decade to, as she explains it, “increase positive representation of Deaf People of Color in television and film.” Bryan’s more recent projects, If You Could Hear My Own Tune and The Shattered Mind have made extensive rounds on the festival circuits, winning numerous awards. She is currently working on an exciting new documentary series, alongside deaf actress and producer Maleni Chaitoo, titled #RESIST Through Our Eyes.

deaftalent-deaf-diversity-hollywood-talent-06According to the project’s active Fundraising Page #RESIST Through Our Eyes will be an 8-part documentary series “which will follow and document Deaf and Hard of Hearing people’s personal experiences and concerns when their human and civil rights are violated, challenged and threatened in the current political climate of chaos, toxicity, propaganda, “alternative facts” and uncertainty that exist under a regime Administration. We will meet and interview Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals whose Constitutional Rights have being threatened or violated… this includes activists, advocators, educators, lawyers, interpreters, Human and Civil Rights agencies and organizations, and their allies.”

Bryan sees intersectionality as the future of media. “Diversity does not necessarily means inclusive because they do not always include ‘the others.’ What do I mean by other? Deaf talents of color, people with other disabilities,” she explains. “As of today, 2017, the entertainment and television industry do not see us as an equal part of society. We’re always kept on sidelines or ignored… We have so much story to tell. Why are we as intersectional, the disabled and black deaf talents, being overlooked? Although I promote inclusion and deaf talents of color, we must be careful of erasing anyone. There are so many of us who are ready to tell our stories.”

deaftalent-deaf-diversity-hollywood-talent-07With the rise of the internet, which offers opportunity for visibility and a public platform, people who are d/Deaf/HoH have been actively correcting wrong assumptions, smashing stereotypes, and working to dismantle the structural barriers that oppress entire groups of people due to the way they are born and/or they way they choose to communicate. Members of the majority culture are now getting exposed to all different aspects of deafness and Deaf culture through intersectional social justice dialogues and deaf-created content. People are seeing, perhaps for the first time, that people who are deaf are mostly just regular everyday human beings who want the same kind of happiness and success as everyone else, and that they can do pretty much all the same things hearing people can do— except for hear.
deaftalent-pharrell-happy-asl-deaf-film-camp-cm7-08At the very roots of all grassroots movements are the younger generations. Working to ensure a future where d/Deaf/HoH children grow up confident in their ability to pursue their creative dreams without limitations, CampMark7 Deaf Film Camp is now in its fifth year of working with aspiring filmmakers ages 13-16 in Old Forge, NY to learn the ins and outs of the process— from script writing to screening. Campers are given the equipment, software, and guidance they need to turn their ideas into reality in a fast-paced, yet supportive hands-on filmmaking program. Several of the deaf campers’ final films have even gone viral— the ASL music video they made for Pharrell’s “Happy” has more than 1.7 million views on YouTube at this time!
“The Deaf Film Camp is a huge success because they work directly with skilled deaf role models and campers have direct communication access to their teachers,” Hlibok explains of CampMark7. “The Lights Camera Access! 2.0, the National Disability Mentorship Coalition, PolicyWorks, and many others support our mission and collaborate with us on various outreach projects. We host summits in NYC, DC and Los Angeles during the year for students who wish to meet mentors and meet with role models in the media industry who can provide opportunities to find internships or careers in their respective fields.”

deaftalent-deaf-kids-hollywood-talent-09As an accessible, inclusive, and immersive program, CampMark7 fosters the innate potentials of young people who might otherwise encounter discouraging limitations. Deaf/HoH youth deserve more music and arts programs that enrich their lives and facilitate a deeper, reciprocal connection to the cultural arts. Supporting organizations that work with young people is easy, for example the Deaf Film Camp Showcase Event on March 25 at Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, NY will help raise funds for 2017 camper tuitions. For those who struggle with communication on a regular basis, creative outlets such as film, writing, art, or music, can provide a much needed avenue for healthy self-expression and building self-confidence.

“Human difference is a strength for all of us when we can teach and learn together,” Hlibok continues. “America has struggled with this in the past, and we are making progress towards correcting injustices every day. This is among the reasons why diversity is so important in film & TV.”

As the DeafTalent movement continues to spread, influencing the very fabric of American pop culture, creative people who are deaf will build further upon these grassroots efforts. The larger intersectional discourse with regards to how the media portrays people from minority communities is bringing many advocacy groups together, thus raising the visibility of marginalized people seeking work in the industry. Awareness about the importance and availability of deaf perspectives only increases as skilled actors, writers, directors, camera people, and consultants are gradually making their way onto major production teams and on-screen roles.

Deaf Talent Everywhere! Part IV

deaftalent-hashtag-twitterToo often, young people who are deaf are discouraged from following their dreams. They are told “you can’t…” or “you won’t be able to…” and they are pushed to into careers that they are not passionate about. In reality, however, there are very few jobs Deaf people “can’t” do, especially once small adjustments are made to accommodate their specific skills and abilities. At the end of the day, our society limits people more than the actual experience of deafness ever could.

#DeafTalent is a cultural movement that is gaining traction in all areas of life. Talented Deaf individuals in fields across the board are working to defy social expectations, remove barriers, and prove that there are NO limits to what people who are deaf can do. My Deaf siblings and young nieces deserve every opportunity to manifest their own destiny and accomplish their own goals without suffering the prejudice of previous generations. It’s time for people to open their minds to the endless potential of our diverse population.

To explore the many facets of DeafTalent, I went right to the source: the Deaf community. Individuals working in a number of different fields were eager to communicate a message of Deaf empowerment. This is part IV of an ongoing series about Deaf Talent in America; be sure to check out part I, part II, and part III, and follow along for future installments!

Sean Forbes

Music artist + Co-founder D-PAN

deafandloud.com

Inspirations:

sean-forbes-deaftalentI grew up watching MTV with my brothers, listening to songs my parents and brothers played – which they included me by lip-synching songs so I could read their lips, witnessing the enjoyment of live music from watching my Dad and Uncle perform in their country-rock band The Forbes Brothers.

We had a music room in the basement where I spent the better part of my childhood banging on drums I’ve had since I was 5 years old, learning to play guitar, writing countless songs that I would be embarrassed to show today. Music is the one and only thing I ever wanted, but the only thing that “stood in the way” were those who thought otherwise…. but I never cared about them, they weren’t a part of my life.

Barriers:

My parents always told me I could do whatever I wanted. I don’t think in a million years they thought I would actually try and pursue music for a career. I knew first hand that it was a difficult path to chose and that many musicians don’t make a living playing music, but I was determined to make it more than just a hobby. The biggest barrier was proving those in the music industry I could do this. It was my determination, persistence, and I-don’t-give-a-f*ck attitude that paid off because everyone could see I was inclined to make this work, and would not take no for an answer.

I’m also fortunate that I had the ability to co-found D-PAN, the Deaf Professional Arts Network, a nonprofit that makes mainstream music accessible to the deaf community, and with my own music, that’s what I always wanted, to write and perform my own songs… I never cared much for marching to the same beat everyone else was doing and jumping on other wagons, I wanted to create a wagon other people could jump on, or that could inspire people to create their own wagons other people could jump on.

I work with closely with Mark Levin and Adrean Mangiardi, who are both deaf, and who are what I like to call “Jack-Of-All-Trades” when it comes to music, music videos, production, the three of us have been working closely for almost 8 years and have been through it all together from working at D-PAN, creating the Sean Forbes / Deaf And Loud world, touring across the country together creating memories, and of course going to a bar or two and causing a ruckus, just Google “deaf wolfpack.”

Deaf Advantages:

Most bands start out by playing in their local markets and build a fanbase locally then spreading out from there. Being deaf and a graduate of RIT/NTID certainly had its advantages, along with my frequent visits to Gallaudet where I made many friends, and immersed myself into Deaf culture. When I perform in cities across the country, I meet up with the friends I made throughout the years and once in awhile the whole band and I will crash on their couches and floors! When the band and I show up at bars to play people are always tell us “We’re so used to seeing the same old bass, guitar, drums, and a singer night after night but when you show up, you rap and sign your songs at the same time, it looks like your dancing with your hands and doing something meaningful, then you have visuals behind you with the lyrics being shown making it a one of a kind 100% accessible show” Music industry people are always like “You’re DEAF and you do MUSIC?! WOW!” and then when they see the whole presentation it never fails that their response is “I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THAT” that is exactly what I wanted to do. I hate it when deaf people try to be like the next Wiz Khalifa, or the next whatever already exists… BE YOURSELF, you’ll get more respect that way.

I’m proud to be deaf, I think that no matter what race, disability, or nationality, whatever you are… if you are comfortable in your own skin people will connect.

Also – It’s a great time to be a deaf person, we have so much more accessibility to entertainment than we ever have before, we have deaf people being showcased on a mainstreamed level – Nyle Dimarco is making his mark on America’s Next Top Model a hugely popular television show on CW, we have Switched At Birth on ABC Family that has been going on 4+ seasons with a huge fanbase that is in love with Sean Berdy, and we have Deaf West Theatre with their revival of Spring Awakening making huge waves on Broadway which will knock open huge doors for Daniel Durant, Sandra Mae Frank, Josh Castille, Treshelle Edmond, Amelia Hensley, Russell Harvard, Anthony Natele, Miles Barbee, and to have Marlee Matlin as the den mother of sorts is a great group, I’ve seen the show twice and hung out with the cast after and I’m truly proud of their hard work. It is truly important that as a community we support one another —- so huge shout outs to all of the #deaftalent showing the world what we as a community can do and I’m excited for many more doors to open for many of us. I want to see Tate Tullier taking pictures for GQ or even taking pictures of me for Rolling Stone, Jules Dameron and Adrean Mangiardi directing a network or cable show, Shoshannah Stern and Amber Zion playing a role on network television show, Wawa getting signed to a record label by a big record company… it’s time for all of this.

Advice:

Do what you LOVE. When kids come up to me and my shows ask me “How can I be famous like you?” I always tell them “Why do you want to be famous?” and they can never answer that. I didn’t go into music because I wanted to be famous, I went into music because I LOVE MUSIC. You should do things because you love doing them. I couldn’t imagine a life without music, and if that’s what you want to do, or whatever you want to do my advice is to Immerse yourself, believe in yourself, work hard, be persistent because the only person who can make this happen is YOURSELF.

 

Kristen Marie “Rajarajeshwari” Weiner

Creator of Deafhood Yoga

http://deafhoodyoga.com/

Inspirations:

kristen-marie-deaftalentBorn Kristen Marie Weiner, I am now known as Rajarajeshwari, my spiritually inspiring name. The vision of Deafhood Yoga® was channeled in 2008, after experiencing the depth of Dr. Paddy Ladd’s book “Understanding Deaf Culture, in Search of Deafhood”. In that class, the intense dialogue with other members of the Deaf community led to a powerful moment of understanding what the concept of colonization truly meant. I had the opportunity to learn and study Deafhood in the Deaf, collective community for two semesters.

We analyzed, dialogued, identified, learned, processed and understood that the systems in our environment either oppressed or supported us as individuals, and as a cultural linguistics community. That ranges from activism, businesses, communication, education, the medical system, social economics, social justice, spirituality and more. To me, the word, Deafhood, means the consciousness of sharing a similar experience growing up as a Deaf person like childhood, sisterhood, motherhood, etc. We know what works and what does not work. It, also, is a personal journey that each Deaf person undertakes to discover their true identity and purpose here on Earth as a Deaf person. I went through the stages of colonization, decolonization and liberation. This inspired me to want the same for every Deaf person!

I, like any other member of a cultural-linguistic community, will do anything to protect, preserve and pass on our culture and language. The vibrant, rich language of sign & our culture is clearly deep-rooted in the mind, the blood, & the spirit of our Deaf people. I know our Deaf culture and sign language is a divine gift to the world.

Yoga means to unite our mind, body and soul with the higher power, i.e. God, Creator, Brahman, etc. Many people live outside their mind, body and soul. It is time for people to connect within themselves to feel more compassion not only for themselves but others too. Around the world, every human being experiences a different kind of suffering and the ultimate goal of yoga is to reduce that suffering.

Marrying the concepts of Deafhood and Yoga offers divine space to decolonize the mind, body and soul of our Deaf people because we understand. Deafhood Yoga is the gift of taking care of ourselves, to heal from colonization. Then we can move forward and take better care of our Deaf communities without compromising our culture and language. We are masters of our own destiny. Both Deafhood and yoga within, shines the light on the truth and intensifies the quality of life possible.

Our Deaf people are world-wide and that inspired the vision of combining ancient cultures and language with social entrepreneurship and technological innovations creating a Deaf-centric, online yoga studio, Deafhood Yoga®.

Barriers:

The biggest barrier I have had to overcome is the historical societal system that continues to be controlled by the hearing white males who do not listen to the cultural-linguistic members of the Deaf community in terms of what works for Deaf children who grow up to be Deaf adults in our society. Before I go any further, it’s important that I stress the label “deaf” comes from hearing white males in the medical field. The term reflects the pathological perspective of deafness. The word comes with battered baggage dragging the heavy burden imposed by the historically wrong perception that deaf people are “deficient” and they need to be fixed. And still today, heart-breaking eugenics practices are being enforced by hearing people who have not grasped the concept between saviors and allies. This is a distribution of ignorance, privilege and wealth that’s bound by ego, greed and fear. A violation of the first three Yamas of the Eight Limbs of Yoga: Ahmisa (non-harming), Satya (non-lying), and Asteya (non-stealing).

This leads to another barrier, that I continue to face: our own Deaf people, why? It is not easy to grasp the concept of colonization, decolonization and liberation. This affects all aspects of the Deaf person; emotionally, energetically, linguistically, mentally, physically and spiritually. It is an intense process which requires time, patience and compassion for oneself and others.

To study Dr. Paddy Ladd’s Deafhood course through the Deafhood Foundation, contact Chriz Dally at Chriz@deafhoodfoundation.org

Deaf Advantages:

I know being Deaf has given me an advantage in my business. Deaf people are more attuned with what is going on, energy-wise. Sign language is spatial, tactile, visual, and kinetic which makes sign language multi-dimensional. Depending on the person who is signing, they express tones through their facial expressions, body language, energy and vibrations. It is like an “energy dance”.

In yoga, there is the concept of pratyahara which means abstraction or withdrawal of the senses. We live in a world that is heavily based and designed around hearing. Hearing people to withdraw from sounds is inconceivable. For Deaf people, living without the sense of hearing, our experience intensifies our connection, understanding and relationship with the energy field.

Advice:

My advice for other Deaf people who want to pursue a career path in yoga and/or spirituality is to trust your intuition. You can embody your Deaf-centric principles and values without compromising the Deaf culture and language, in harmony, through your vision. Believe in yourself. You are visible. Only you are responsible for your own actions. Take care of yourself. Protect your energy. Be conscious. Balance all that you do. Create and work with other talented Deaf people to generate abundance of opportunities for each other because we understand. Just be.

 

Jonathan Lamberton

Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI)

https://www.facebook.com/jonathanllamberton

Inspirations:

jonathan-lamberton-deaftalentI was working at a deaf services agency and noticed that many difficulties my clients had were rooted in language and cultural barriers. I took a CDI training course thinking that it would benefit my work with diverse clients, but I came to realize that working as a CDI would mean that any influence I had in minimizing barriers would come during the actual situations rather than after the fact.

Barriers:

There are not that many training opportunities out there specifically for CDIs.  I also wish there was a robust local CDI community when I started out, it is better to observe and learn alongside other CDIs.  Also, coming into the interpreting world with greater knowledge of ASL and the deaf community but limited knowledge of interpreting theories and best practices, it took time to learn how to work best with hearing team interpreters in various situations with different demands.

Deaf Advantages:

I have lived the Deaf life 24/7 since birth, interacting with an enormous variety of deaf people.  These experiences have helped me understand how to vary my ASL production to suit different people and also to consider the range of knowledge and viewpoints of deaf community members in order to present information in a way that is clear . When communicating a message, it is very difficult to identify what gaps in understanding may occur.

Advice:

Talk with other CDIs to get an understanding of the profession.  Freelance work isn’t for everyone, there are few traditional full time positions for CDIs.  Observe CDIs at work, attend CDI training and any advanced training related to the CDI work you might find in your area, e.g. mental health.

 

Michael Schwartz

Attorney, Associate Professor of Law

http://law.syr.edu/profile/michael-schwartz1

Inspirations:

michael-schwartz-deaftalentI grew up during the anti-war and civil rights movements of the sixties and cut my political teeth on resistance to racism and imperialism. I went to many demonstrations protesting Jim Crow at home and the war in Vietnam, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s that I realized discrimination based on disability was also a pernicious and pervasive problem. As I was becoming aware of civil rights for people with disabilities, I had an close-up encounter with discrimination against deaf children at a state school for the deaf in the South, and based on my reports, the American Civil Liberties Union was able to obtain legal relief for these children. This experience combined with my progressive background propelled me toward a career in the law.

Barriers:

A huge barrier has always been attitudinal. People assume that if you are deaf, you are also dumb. This ignorance leads to mistakes that violate the ADA. Hearing people either pity you or hold you up as a “supercrip” because you can drive despite being deaf. Another huge barrier is the lack of effective communication access: lack of interpreters and captioning are prevalent all over America.

Deaf Advantages:

To be honest, I don’t know. In terms of public service employment (e.g., Federal and State government employment), these entities have been very accommodating of deaf workers, but the private sector much less so.

Advice:

I have two responses. The first is to highlight the need for two assets: native fluency in English and a passion for the law. Both are essential to success in law school and beyond.

My second response is to ask the deaf person why he/she wants to become a lawyer. Law in capitalist America is designed and structured to protect the interests of power. Put differently, law protects the interests of white, able-bodied, heterosexual males, and while there are laws against discrimination, the courts operate to ensure that the interests of those in power aren’t unduly threatened or usurped. Take the Americans with Disabilities Act, for example. It is extremely frustrating to see how the courts have interpreted the ADA to frustrate the legitimate aspirations of people with disabilities. Examples are too numerous to list here, but the overwhelming sense I have is that while the ADA has been helpful here and there, as a whole, anti-discrimination law has not been able to reorder power relations because the courts – made up mainly of wealthy white males far removed from the daily struggles of ordinary people – have made sure that ingrained patterns of marginalization and oppression remain securely in place. For instance, the unemployment rate of people with disabilities in 1990 (when the ADA was enacted) was around 70%, a figure that remains unchanged to this day.

These interviews represent only a small number of the countless individuals who are out there proving on a daily basis that when you have passion and motivation, anything is possible! Talented people who are d/Deaf can be found in every field at every level, working harder than most to rise up through the ranks. Deafness is not a barrier to success, but prejudice ignorance can be. I am excited and honored to share perspectives from Deaf professionals pursuing careers they love, and I look forward to future installments in this series!

Deaf Talent Everywhere! Part III

Too often, young people who are deaf are discouraged from following their dreams. They are told “you can’t…” or “you won’t be able to…” and they are pushed to into careers that they are not passionate about. In reality, however, there are very few jobs Deaf people “can’t” do, especially once small adjustments are made to accommodate their specific skills and abilities. At the end of the day, our society limits people more than the actual experience of deafness ever could.

#DeafTalent is a cultural movement that is gaining traction in all areas of life. Talented Deaf individuals in fields across the board are working to defy social expectations, remove barriers, and prove that there are NO limits to what people who are deaf can do. My Deaf siblings and young nieces deserve every opportunity to manifest their own destiny and accomplish their own goals without suffering the prejudice of previous generations. It’s time for people to open their minds to the endless potential of our diverse population.

To explore the many facets of DeafTalent, I went right to the source: the Deaf community. Individuals working in a number of different fields were eager to communicate a message of Deaf empowerment. This is part III of an ongoing series about Deaf Talent in America; be sure to check out part I and part II , and follow along for future installments!

Melody Stein

co-owner of Mozzeria

http://www.mozzeria.com/

Ideaftalent-melody-steinnspirations:
I was born into a family of restaurateurs and am a 3rd generation restaurateur. When my parents learned that my younger brother and I were both Deaf, they wanted to provide us better education and made the move from Hong Kong to San Francisco to enroll us at California School for the Deaf (CSD) in Fremont. While we were at CSD, my parents decided to open a restaurant in San Francisco. On the weekends when we came home, we would watch them in action – having meetings with their team, renovating the restaurant space, and testing food. I was inspired and came up with a vision of what my restaurant would look like while talking to my brother.

Fast forward to year 2009. Russ, my husband and co-owner, knew I had the dream to open a restaurant and knowing the fact that “90% of new restaurants fail within 1 year” didn’t help us feel confident. We kept saying to ourselves that we would wait for the right time. We realized there is no such thing as “right time” and that we need to take charge and make it our destiny. We finally launched Mozzeria in December, 2011.

Barriers:
When I was growing up, I didn’t feel different while attending CSD because I was always in an American Sign Language (ASL) environment. When we moved back to San Francisco many years later and finally decided to pursue our dream of ‘opening the restaurant,’ then I felt I was “different” because now I had to work with hearing people. For example, I had to go to City Hall to get the resources I needed to apply for permits. Some city employees would be great and provide an interpreter right away, but the majority of the city’s employees didn’t know how to approach me and found the situation awkward. I asked for paper and pen, or even if I brought my own paper and pen, they were a little resistant about writing back and forth and tried to keep talking to me. Or they would refer me to the manager instead. If a hearing person is asking for same resources or applying for the same permits, that person would be a step ahead of me whereas I would probably need to reschedule an appointment to come back and get the information or service that I needed. I realized at that moment that I had 2 jobs now – trying to open the restaurant, and educating hearing people on how to work with Deaf people.

Deaf Advantages:
Some customers told us that our food is amazing because we are Deaf and our sense of taste is greatly enhanced. I thought that was funny. Actually I never thought that way, but recently I began to see this as an opportunity to promote our culture, and hire an all-Deaf team.

Nearly all of our employees have no culinary background, but that didn’t stop us from hiring them. It is our way of giving back to the Deaf community to train them. Now many of our staff are approaching their 2-year anniversary. They discovered new talents that they never knew they had. Working at Mozzeria, some discovered their true calling in the food industry. Some got a clearer definition of their dreams after watching us in action and went on to obtain higher education, and even pursue masters or PhD degrees. Some use their experience at Mozzeria to get their foot in their next job. This is the type of impact we want to see, especially within the Deaf community.

Advice:
Nothing comes easy, and you have to work hard. Never give up, and find ways to overcome. Russ would say ‘effort’ is the key because putting the effort in pursuing your dream is what it takes.

Joel Barish

Co-founder and CEO of DeafNation

http://deafnation.com/

Inspirations:
deaftalent-joel-barishI graduated Gallaudet with TV, Film and Photography. Hollywood and TV Network had difficulty hiring Deaf people even though I had great internship with them. I decided to start a coffee shop with travel agency for 4 years before Jed (younger brother) pulled me into the internet age. That time internet was so new. We started many Deaf people with their website, business, organization, media. Started Deaflympics online in 1999 Davos, Switzerland and World Federation of the Deaf online media in 1999 Brisbane, Australia.

I met one Deaf woman at a deaf event. She told me that Deaf people only live in USA. I told her NO, there are millions and millions of Deaf people in different countries. I realized that I should do something about it. Why not start “No Barriers with Joel Barish,” doing positive stories about Deaf people in different countries? I added foodie, culture experience, etc into my show showing that Deaf people can do anything; even TRAVEL remote jungle or remote locations that you never find anything about in the travel books.

Barriers:
Be Brave! No fear to communicate with anyone, even Deaf or hearing people because I have to learn their sign language and culture at the same time. I told some government officers that I don’t carry interpreter in my school backpack!

Deaf Advantages:
Really no different. Just that hearing media staff would say WOW! Deaf can capture their attention. Deaf people are much friendly in different countries, easy to connect with them anywhere if we need their help or support instantly.

Advice:
No Barriers is the key– just DO IT! Do something different that other business or ideas are not same as yours. Don’t do “copy-cat.”

Sheena McFeely

Children’s Book Author and Creator of ASLNook

http://sheenamcfeely.com/

deaftalent-sheena-mcfeelyInspirations:
My life story— being the only Deaf kid in my family and raising two girls using ASL. So I channeled my frustrations into what’s now called ASL Nook. Would I be where I am today without my experiences – both good and bad? No way.

Barriers:
Doing everything on my own – writing my own script, directing my own family, editing, running my own website, and posting everything on social media. But I am fortunate to have those skills to run something like ASL Nook.

Deaf Advantages:
Being Deaf and a momma to two girls – one Deaf and one a CODA – does give me the edge. But that’s not it. It’s working hard – I mean really hard – to get where I am today. As I get older, I’m finding out that more people like to talk than do the work. If you can do the latter, then you’re ahead of the game.

Advice:
Think like a chef. When you decide to show the world your work, go out with a bang each time! And if its not good quality, fine-tune it. Work hard and walk the talk.

It is funny how everything worked out. I used to act and wanted to be a film maker. Then all changed when I realized I wanted more time with my friends, family, and life. As soon I became a mother, my children completed that circle for me. Good thing I had some experience under my belt to eventually put my acting and film making skills from many years ago to good use now. It might not be in Hollywood, but this is for something even grander. Spreading the sign to all kinds of people. That’s something irreplaceable.

Do it only if you are passionate and in love with your vision. And if you do rise, be humble. It’ll only take you even farther.

Braam Jordaan

Filmmaker and Advocate

http://braamjordaan.com/

deaftalent-braam-jordaanInspirations:
(As a filmmaker) I grew up in a colorful environment. Film and animation are very visual-driven and colors are my music, my father is a wonderful storyteller and my mom a perfectionist. I naturally gravitated towards the world of visual arts and entertainment.

(As an advocate) I draw inspiration from the very community I am a part of. Uplifting the communities through my visual work, portraying strong messages of hope and happiness is a true reflection of the cultural pride I inherited as a Deaf person.

Effectively addressing the needs of different abilities called for listening to the “voices” of people with different abilities and proactively engaging them in policy decision-making. They were often overlooked in the policy planning and as result, their programmes were seldom inclusive.

Barriers:
The attitudinal barriers or bigotry are the biggest barriers I had to overcome. People are shocked to learn that Deaf people are lawyers and doctors, CEOs and managers, hold PhDs, have meaningful work, own homes and have families. We are people first, not Deaf first, and our abilities — not our disability — need to be the focus. We can do anything except… nothing!

Deaf Advantages:
Of course! Deaf culture, by its very nature is very visual. From our attuned senses, to our communication methods, we offer a very unique perspective.

Advice:
Using creative methods engages people emotionally, stimulates thinking and creates a climate for greater understanding. Make sure you do your homework and use the power of social media wisely! Advocacy work can be very tough and cumbersome but it can also be a very rewarding experience, especially when you see the difference you are making in people’s lives.

These interviews represent only a small number of the countless individuals who are out there proving on a daily basis that when you have passion and motivation, anything is possible! Talented people who are d/Deaf can be found in every field at every level, working harder than most to rise up through the ranks. Deafness is not a barrier to success, but prejudice ignorance can be. I am excited and honored to share perspectives from Deaf professionals pursuing careers they love, and I look forward to future installments in this series!

DeafTalent Everywhere! Part II

Too often, young people who are deaf are discouraged from following their dreams. They are told “you can’t…” or “you won’t be able to…” and they are pushed to into careers that they are not passionate about. In reality, however, there are very few jobs Deaf people “can’t” do, especially once small adjustments are made to accommodate their specific skills and abilities. At the end of the day, our society limits people more than the actual experience of deafness ever could.

#DeafTalent is a cultural movement that is gaining traction in all areas of life. Talented Deaf individuals in fields across the board are working to defy social expectations, remove barriers, and prove that there are NO limits to what people who are deaf can do. My Deaf siblings and young nieces deserve every opportunity to manifest their own destiny and accomplish their own goals without suffering the prejudice of previous generations. It’s time for people to open their minds to the endless potential of our diverse population.

To explore the many facets of DeafTalent, I went right to the source: the Deaf community. Individuals working in a number of different fields were eager to communicate a message of Deaf empowerment. This is part II of an ongoing series about Deaf Talent in America; be sure to check out Part I and follow along for future installments!

John Maucere

Actor and Creator of SuperDeafy
www.johnmaucere.com

Inspirations:
deaftalent-john-maucereGrowing up in Hollywood and being heavily influenced by the lifestyle, I became inspired to be in the entertainment industry. It seemed exciting watching people talk about the movie or theatre industry and to see them be entertained.  In addition, I grew up attending social events at Deaf clubs to see my mother perform on stage. Back then, there were no communicative technologies such as phones and computers, and even more so, there was no captioning on Television. I was constantly left to imagine scenarios as I observed hearing people around me chatting away, watching TV shows and figuring out what had happened and so forth. I started to become the entertainment for my Deaf family, and discovered that I loved making them laugh. I enjoyed socializing and telling stories growing up. I also reveled in impersonating people such as my friends and teachers at school.

The more I became involved in entertainment, the more, my world opened up. Acting took me to places I never thought I would see and allowed me to travel the world, connecting with people from all walks of life. I realized then that it didn’t matter what country we were from, because in the end, we were from the same country:  A deaf country.   Acting is in my heart. It’s my passion, and it gives me joy to entertain others. I am able to share my experiences as a deaf person through an indirect medium,  in which people can relate, and learn from one another.

Barriers:
Some of the biggest barriers I have in the entertainment industry include being offered roles that must include the ability to speak to conform to hearing society, and ignorant stereotypes about deaf people. Opportunities for deaf roles are limited especially through television and movies. Instead of waiting for sparse roles to come by, I create opportunities for myself such as The John Maucere Show, No Ordinary Hero: the SuperDeafy Movie, DEAFYWOOD to name a few. I also developed characters such as SuperDeafy and  Mr. SeeTerp.

Deaf Advantage:
In the Deaf community, yes, it is an advantage because we share common experiences and can relate to skits and jokes regardless of where we live. The language of the Deaf is American Sign Language, which means that facial expressions and body movements are key components of our every day language. As a deaf actor it comes easily for me to be expressive. Furthermore, as a Deaf person that uses sign language, I am able to find ways to communicate and perform in a visual language that is understood by Deaf people around the world. Many of our expressions and body movements are universal which often transcends cultural and language boundaries.

Advice:
The key ingredient in being successful in film and entertainment is to have passion. With passion comes perseverance, and then when opportunities do not happen, you CREATE opportunities for yourself. It is also very important that you are not alone in your quest to act. There needs to be a team of people who have the same goals as you be it as an actor, director, filmmaker, editor or even friends and family as your backbone to keep pushing you to chase after dreams that may seem farfetched but can become a reality.  You need to be surrounded by people who believe in you so that you can keep on believing in yourself. The entertainment industry is a tough business but anything is possible when you believe in yourself.

Gerard Buckley

President of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology Vice President and Dean

http://www.ntid.rit.edu/president/biography

Inspirations:
deaftalent-gerard-buckleyI come from a family of educators (7 siblings total) who all believe in the power of education to change the world.  The only difference for me is that I am a professional in the field of Deaf Education and

I want to be sure education provides opportunities for Deaf and hard of hearing students to pursue careers on par with their hearing peers.  I really believe that if we can provide quality access to educational opportunities, there are no limits to what young Deaf and hard of hearing students can accomplish.  In addition to my family, I was inspired by educators here at NTID who believed in me and my aspirations even when I had doubts.  Now I seek to pass along the same type of support to Deaf and hard of hearing students that we have the honor of serving.

Barriers:
The biggest barriers I have faced are attitudinal and communication-based.  There is nothing more frustrating than dealing with the attitudes of individuals who simply do not yet understand the capabilities of Deaf and hard of hearing professionals.  Unfortunately attitudinal barriers remain very prevalent in American society where individuals tends to “label” humans on the basis of their own limited experiences.  All too often I still see and hear comments which reflect a basic lack of respect for, and believe in the potential of Deaf individuals to serve in particular roles of functions without any real consideration of their abilities.  This leads to lost opportunities for both Deaf individuals and lost opportunities for hearing individuals to benefit from the skills and experiences of these Deaf individuals.

Communication based barriers remain an obstacle at times.  When a film is not captioned, an interpreter not provided, or meaningful access not considered, communication barriers arise and the opportunities for learning and growth are limited.  As an educator I believe in the power of educating our Deaf youth so that they have the tools necessary to self-advocate in situations such as this and move forward towards their aspirations.

Deaf Advantage:
Being Deaf in my role is a gift that enables me to connect with the students, faculty and staff that I serve at NTID.  When I speak to Deaf students throughout my travels, I always end with a statement that I am looking forward to the day when I visit their school or program and the next leader is a Deaf individual like themselves.  I talk openly about the importance of the next leaders of NTID being Deaf people of Color, Women and others who traditionally may have been excluded from opportunities for leadership in the past.  I want every student at NTID to see a role model like themselves and know that opportunities are within their grasp if they work hard and commit to learning and growth.

Advice:
Higher education requires a passion for students and an undying belief in the potential for these students to achieve their dreams.  Higher education is a nobel enterprise where students and their families entrust us with the opportunity to help young individuals find themselves and their career path. A career in higher education also requires that we are constantly seeking better ways to learn and teach and that we never stop in our attempt to grow ourselves as human beings.  The future of higher education remains very promising as long as we continue to deliver on the promises we make to students and their parents.  This requires that we are grounded in the reality of the workforce market place and continually asking ourselves how we can best prepare students for career success.

I encourage Deaf students interested in careers in higher education to get a solid undergraduate education which prepares you well for graduate and advanced studies in a discipline area where one wants to teach.   As I said at the top of this paragraph, one must have passion for the students to be successful this field.  I remain honored to serve in this role and to represent the outstanding students, faculty, staff and alums of NTID of whom I am so proud.

Rikki Poynter

Vlogger + Blogger, Accessibility Advocate

https://www.youtube.com/user/rikkipoynter

Inspirations:
deaftalent-rikki-poytnerFirst and foremost, I really needed something to do! That’s really the number one answer whenever someone asks me why I started YouTube and this and that. But after doing makeup videos for years and getting nothing out of it emotionally and physically, I needed something better, and to do something better. So after the first deaf-related video went up and received very good feedback, I knew I could do something with that and continued.

Barriers:
Getting people to listen and read what I, we, all of us, have to say. Though there are many people more than willing to sit and listen, there are just as many others that don’t want to and would rather stick their fingers in their ears or over their eyes when it comes to certain issues.

Deaf Advantage:

Other d/Deaf/HOH people just like me have been looking for vloggers. We had some channels from d/Deaf/HOH artists that made music videos and web TV series, but I hadn’t been able to find someone who is d/Deaf/HOH that just sat down and talked about stuff. It’s nice knowing that other people can watch my channel and see someone who relates to them and captions videos so they know what’s being said.

Advice:
Don’t be afraid to do it. It took a while, but right now, we’re getting closer and closer into the “spotlight,” for lack of a better word. With Nyle DiMarco winning America’s Next Top Model and Spring Awakening making a huge impact in mainstream theatre, more people are sitting down and willing to listen. Come up with a basic idea or plan that you want to do, find other d/Deaf/HOH people (we’re everywhere) and get together and work.

Davin Searls

Executive Director at Discovering Deaf Worlds

http://www.discoveringdeafworlds.org/about

Inspirations: 
deaftalent-david-searlsI never intended to become involved in international development or the non-profit sector. Shortly after graduating from Sarah Lawrence College with my BA in Liberal Arts, I took a job teaching at a Deaf program at a university in China. I was there for nearly a year, during which I met many intelligent, passionate Deaf individuals who were frustrated, knowing that upon graduation, they would have little to no success at finding a job. They were eager to try and change the system, but didn’t know where to begin – and many, having been told they are inferior all their lives, didn’t have the confidence to do so, either.

I left that experience resolute to support people like them – Deaf people in the developing world with dreams and hopes for their communities. I was fortunate enough to combine efforts with my friend and co-worker, David Justice, and that led to us establishing Discovering Deaf Worlds as a non-profit organization.

Barriers:
There are many, but I’ll pick two. One: David and I both served as full-time volunteers for the organization from 2007 until 2013, living simply and with family, but draining our savings as a result. We are fortunate enough to now earn a salary, not to mention we have 15 incredible board members and many more contractors and volunteers who support our efforts. At the same time, we are still two people doing a workload for many, and we look forward to expanding the organization’s staff within the next year or two.

We also face another serious barrier: lack of awareness. Too many people who do not sign / are not familiar with Deaf culture do not believe that Deaf people can succeed on the same level as general society. As a result, these people will make decisions FOR Deaf people rather than including them or allowing them to make their own decisions. And too often, Deaf people are also unaware of their potential, lacking confidence in their own abilities – which ultimately means that decisions are very rarely made BY Deaf people. It is this barrier that our work aims to surmount- by providing capacity building and organizational management training, we ensure that Deaf leaders are capable and confident in managing their organizations and influencing policy and practices that impact them and their communities.

Deaf Advantage:
On a personal level, experiencing life as a Deaf person in a hearing world has taught me self-advocacy and made me stronger. On a larger level, the Deaf people we have trained have often told us that our trainings have been much more beneficial to them than other “hearing” trainings – because we understand their needs as Deaf people, how they communicate, the uniqueness of their cultures, and so on.

Advice:
Do all you can to learn from others. Ask questions, don’t be afraid to try, and most of all: pursue your passions!

———

These interviews represent only a small number of the countless individuals who are out there proving on a daily basis that when you have passion and motivation, anything is possible! Talented people who are d/Deaf can be found in every field at every level, working harder than most to rise up through the ranks. Deafness is not a barrier to success, but prejudice ignorance can be. I am excited and honored to share perspectives from Deaf professionals pursuing careers they love, and I look forward to future installments in this series!

DeafTalent Everywhere! Part I

Too often, young people who are deaf are discouraged from following their dreams. They are told “you can’t…” or “you won’t be able to…” and they are pushed to into careers that they are not passionate about. In reality, however, there are very few jobs Deaf people “can’t” do, especially once small adjustments are made to accommodate their specific skills and abilities. At the end of the day, our society limits people more than the actual experience of deafness ever could.

This year, the #DeafTalent movement caught on across social media as deaf people began to raise awareness about Hollywood casting hearing actors for deaf roles. Instead of hiring qualified deaf performers who are seeking work, of which there is a significant pool, Hollywood and theater productions have continued to select hearing actors and actresses to portray deaf characters. The Deaf community decided it was time to push back against the mainstream media, and began using the internet as a platform to bring this issue to light.

DeafTalent is so much bigger than the entertainment industry— it’s a cultural movement that is gaining traction in all areas of life. Talented Deaf individuals in fields across the board are working to defy social expectations, remove barriers, and prove that there are NO limits to what people who are deaf can do. My Deaf siblings and young nieces deserve every opportunity to manifest their own destiny and accomplish their own goals without suffering the prejudice of previous generations. It’s time for people to open their minds to the endless potential of our diverse population.

To explore the many facets of DeafTalent, I went right to the source: the Deaf community. Individuals working in a number of different fields were eager to communicate a message of Deaf empowerment. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing brief interviews with ambitious people following their life purpose; people who just so happen to be deaf.

Jules Dameron

Director and advocate behind the #DeafTalent movement

jules-dameron-deaftalentInspirations:
When I attended a family reunion at seven years old, my uncle used a video camera to film the event. He hooked it up to the living room television and I saw on the screen whatever he was recording— I was hooked by the process. He let me hold the camera once and that was it. I wanted to make movies from that point on.

Barriers:
Filmmaking is a tough barrier in itself, whether you’re hearing or deaf. So being deaf doesn’t make much of a difference to me, personally. It’s different for everyone, but for me, I’ve been fortunate to be supported for the most part throughout my journey. If I had to point out anything— it would have been dealing with having interpreters on set, but I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing film set interpreters in Los Angeles, and I am grateful for their support, and working with me on devising an efficient system for working with deaf people on film sets.

Deaf Advantage:
I believe my brain works differently since I have learned in a mostly visual way, and filmmaking is a very strong visual medium. So anything visual-based plays to my advantage. I feel I have made a unique contribution to professional actors in general because I make sure that they tell their story visually, not only audibly.

Advice:
I say go for it, because honestly, there is no better field than filmmaking to tell your own story. I strongly feel that the film industry helps the deaf community, and worldwide awareness about deaf people everywhere. So if you have a passion for it, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I absolutely mean this. It is ridiculous to me to think that there are many deaf people out there who are being told not to be an actor, film director, film producer, screenwriter, et cetera because they are deaf. I think the fact that they ARE deaf contributes to those industries, since they bring a special spice to this world.

Andrew Baker

Doctor

andrew-baker-deaf-doctorInspirations:
I decided in third grade to become a doctor. I was not sure what kind, but wanted a career where I would always be comfortable and secure. Plus I like math and science.

Barriers:
One of the biggest barriers I had to overcome was getting teachers to look at me instead of talking to the blackboard. Boy, some teachers just wouldn’t get it!

Deaf Advantage:
It’s tough to say if being deaf gives me any advantages in this field, but I was able to create the first vision care clinic for Deaf people at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and it is still going strong 30 years later. Any Deaf person that wishes to pursue the medical field should have good interpersonal skills, unless they go into a research position where they spend all their time in labs.

Advice:
Study hard, get good grades, try to develop effective oral skills because others don’t know sign language, and go where the money is!

Sean Gerlis

Interpreter & Business Owner

sean-gerlis-deaf-business-ownerInspirations:
The deep passion for helping others to achieve in equal access to everything in this world prompted my desire to do advocacy work for the community. The advocacy work I’ve been doing has everything to do with the barriers I’ve experienced as an individual living here in this country. In the nutshell, I do not want anyone else to experience the frustrations/barriers I am currently enduring.

Barriers:
Inability to speak is often perceived as an uneducated individual. I have to show people that my intelligence is not as they believed. I have to show them I’m much more than not being able to speak fluently. Sadly enough, there are so MANY people out there won’t give us deaf people the benefit of doubt in the first place. The battle (barrier) still continues.

Deaf Advantage:
I believe my productivity/contributions as a deaf person have given me advantages. For example, I’m able to finish my projects ahead of time due to being distraction-resistant. Another example would be that I’m more observant on projects I am working with, which makes me being more contributing employee.

Advice:
Keep your minds open. Gracefully accept diverse perspectives and weight them accordingly. This will make you a better interpreter.

Shoshannah Stern

Actress

shoshannah-stern-deaf-actressInspirations:
According to my mother, I’ve said I wanted to be an actress for even further back than my memory reaches. She says that I asked her for an agent for something like my sixth birthday. I don’t know how I even knew what an agent was!

My sister is an artist and a writer, and I’m pretty sure we both get that creative gene from my mother. She has always had a deep appreciation for the arts and for the theater, and she always made sure we were exposed to that. We grew up in Fremont, and when I took my husband there to see my hometown a few years ago, he was shocked at how small it actually was because he always thought I came from the city. I told him I feel as if I did, because my mom would put us all on BART on the weekends. We’d go to San Francisco or Berkeley and go to the museums and watch foreign films (they had subtitles, after all!) and eat in small restaurants that served food from different places all around the world.

Barriers:
My biggest barrier is one that I’m still trying to overcome, and that’s just to keep working and to keep creatively pushing myself in different directions. I’m fine with that, though, because as a creative person you have to keep moving. It’s the same for everyone in this business, whether they hear or not.

I feel like Viola Davis said it best when she talked about opportunity being the only thing that separates women of color from everyone else. Every audition I get is a win for me, because it means that I’m still moving forward, whether I book that audition or not. Most mainstream actors talk about the frustration they get when they don’t book things, but I think for myself and other talented deaf actors, getting in the room is the biggest challenge of all.

Deaf Advantages:
The first piece of advice I got in acting class when I was starting out was to know your niche and if you didn’t have one, to find one, so that you could stand out from the crowd and be memorable. Many other students who weren’t deaf in my class were at a loss, but that wasn’t an issue for me. I feel like it still helps me now, ten years later, because I’ve always felt like acting is about finding the truth in things. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a deaf family, but I’ve never felt as if being deaf has made me any different from anyone else. It’s always just been a part of who I am. However, when I meet people who don’t come from my community, I’m almost always faced with the reality that the majority of them perceive me as being different from them. I think there’s something about that experience that has allowed me to stay connected to my own truth, and I’m very thankful for that.

Advice:
Push yourself, work hard, think outside the box and most of all, to create a space for yourself. I think we’re having such a great year with so many talented deaf people that are visible out there right now, and I’m so in love with that. The funny thing is that I’ve found that all that visibility has made me think about what’s invisible–and that’s the work that most of us never see. Without that work, the visibility we have now would never be possible, and I feel like there’s so much potential for more deaf people to do work like that. That’s work like producing, directing, writing, casting, or even crewing. I don’t see any reason anybody could give about why a deaf person couldn’t be a PA, a grip, or a makeup artist on set. No piece of advice is ever as easy as it seems, but I feel like if you really want something, you just have to figure out a way for you to show people that you can and will do it, no matter what that something is.

These interviews represent only a small number of the countless individuals who are out there proving on a daily basis that when you have passion and motivation, anything is possible! Talented people who are d/Deaf can be found in every field at every level, working harder than most to rise up through the ranks. Deafness is not a barrier to success, but prejudice ignorance can be. I am excited and honored to share perspectives from Deaf professionals pursuing careers they love, and I look forward to future installments in this series!

Top Model Winner Proves Deaf is Beautiful

The Final Season of America’s Next Top Model concluded in a monumental way with Nyle DiMarco, the show’s first ever Deaf contestant, overcoming all obstacles to win the competition. Smashing through stereotypes and assumptions, DiMarco proved to mainstream audiences that people who are Deaf can do anything they set their minds to. More than that,… Continue Reading

Let’s See More #DeafTalent in Hollywood

Over the past couple weeks, the #DeafTalent movement spread like wildfire across social media. Using this hashtag, members of the Deaf community publicly spoke out against the cultural appropriation of deafness in movies and TV. With so many talented deaf/HoH performer working to catch their big break in Hollywood, it is inexcusable that hearing actors… Continue Reading

Deaf Superheroes and the Power of Diversity

There are many types of superpower– ranging from super strength to mind control. With such a wealth of fictional capabilities available, why should Superheroes be limited by their ability to hear? Deaf people can do everything hearing people can do, they just might do it in a different way… This includes fighting super-villains! Recently, Marvel… Continue Reading

Deaf Culture in Hollywood

Think about the last five movies you saw. Were there any deaf individuals in them? When was the last time you saw a deaf weather person delivering the forecast? It is estimated that nearly 20% of Americans live with some form of hearing loss, yet deaf and hard of hearing society members remain oppressed by… Continue Reading