For many people who are deaf or hard of hearing, lip reading, facial expressions and body language are vital to communication, but protective face masks and remote work and school meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 have made it more difficult.
More than 1.1 million people in Arizona are hard of hearing, and more than 20,000 are deaf, according to the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
A short film about a 4-year-old deaf girl called “The Silent Child” won the 2018 Academy Award for Best Short Film (Live Action). The film’s title character is played by Maisie Sly who is deaf in real life. The film was written by UK actress Rachel Shenton and directed by her fiancé Chris Overton. During the awards ceremony Shenton used American Sign Language to translate her acceptance speech, which doubled as a passionate description of communication challenges faced by children with disabilities.
“Our movie is about a deaf child being born into a world of silence,” said Shenton. “It’s not exaggerated or sensationalized for the movie. This is happening, millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers, and particularly access to education. Deafness is a silent disability. You can’t see it and it’s not life-threatening, so I want to say the biggest of ‘Thank yous’ to the Academy for allowing us to put this in front of a mainstream audience. ”
CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for “The Silent Child”. CLICK BELOW to watch Shenton and Overton’s acceptance speech.
SundanceNow is streaming a new show by and about deaf people called “This Close.” The New York Times interviewed the show’s creators, Shoshannah Stern and Josh Feldman. The article gives a behind-the-scenes description of developing and producing the show.
A community theater group in Phoenix called Detour Company Theater features actors with disabilities performing blockbuster broadway musicals. Arizona State University student Allison Bailey profiled the theatre troupe and its founder for a story on Cronkite News.
Several recent films produced by Hollywood studios and starring celebrity actors are frustrating disability advocates for their lack of diversity and authenticity. Examples include Todd Haynes’s film Wonderstruck starring Julianne Moore as a deaf woman, David Gordon Green’s Stronger starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a double-amputee, and Andy Serkis’s Breathe starring Andrew Garfield as a polio patient who becomes a quadriplegic. A recent article in USA Today explains why disability advocates are raising awareness about the lack of casting diversity and how filmmakers are responding.
Article excerpt: So what can Hollywood do to give more visibility? Lauren Appelbaum, communications director for RespectAbility, a non-profit organization working to fight stigmas and create opportunities for people with disabilities, urges studios to look to TV, where actors such as Stranger Things‘ Gaten Matarazzo (who has cleidocranial dysplasia, a rare growth disorder) and NCIS: New Orleans‘ Daryl Mitchell (who is paralyzed from the chest down) play roles that don’t hinge on them being disabled.
“Actors with disabilities could easily play roles that neither hide nor emphasize their disability,” Appelbaum says. “For example: a doctor who uses a wheelchair or a scientist with cerebral palsy. By including characters with obvious and hidden disabilities in scripts and story lines, films can create more authenticity within entertainment.”
David Uzzell is a deaf chef at Marcel’s, a high-end restaurant in Washington D.C. Uzzell and his colleagues use laser pointers, hand signals and a notepad to communicate meal orders and discuss kitchen operations. NPR reporter Kristin Hartke interviewed Uzzell and his boss Robert Wiedmaier about Uzzell’s work and creativity. “I couldn’t have hired David if he had no taste or sense of smell. Being deaf hasn’t stopped him from being a damn good chef,” Wiedmaier said.