Deaf culture has a lot to say

Ashley McCann, Opinions Editor

Photo courtesy of Pigeons & Planes.
American Sign Language interpreters Matt Maxey and Kelly Kurdi teach Chance the Rapper how to sign his song, “Blessings (Reprise).”

In her blog, “DeafTalent Everywhere Part V,” Lydia Callis, a certified sign language interpreter and advocate for the Deaf community, discusses the barriers Deaf people often encounter in the market place.

According to Callis, many deaf people are discouraged from pursuing careers that others deem too difficult or out of reach for Deaf individuals. However, “there are very few jobs Deaf people ‘can’t’ do, especially once small adjustments are made to accommodate their specific skills and abilities,” said Callis.

Callis, most commonly known for her expressive sign language interpretation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s speech during Superstorm Sandy, is an advocate for the cultural movement #deaftalent, where “[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,” said Callis.

Callis has connected and continues to connect with members of the Deaf community to identify the numerous fields that employ Deaf individuals. “It’s time for people to open their minds to the endless potential of our diverse population,” said Callis.

Many of the people Callis reached out to have joined her cause and are working collaboratively to help change misconceptions concerning the Deaf community.

Activists such as Callis are helping to make Deaf culture more integrated into what many consider to be mainstream culture. In addition to Callis and her partners, pop culture icon Chance the Rapper and Polyarc Games animation director Richard Lico are also contributing to identifying an increased value and appreciation of Deaf culture.

While there are many within the Deaf community who actively pursue equality for Deaf individuals, the partnership with people from the hearing community is essential. Equality is achieved when people come together and help one another.

Chance the Rapper teamed up with Matt Maxey, sign language interpreter, to learn how to sign his song “Blessings (Reprise).”

“Chance hired Maxey’s organizational group DEAFinitely Dope, to serve as interpreters for his Be Encouraged Tour,” said Carl Lamarre, contributor for Billboard. The goal of DEAFinitiely Dope is to bring the deaf and hearing communities together through music, which establishes a collaborative and positive environment that advocates equality and friendship.

Likewise, Lico and the developers at Polyarc Games are also working to bring the hearing and deaf communities together. Lico is working on the upcoming video game “Moss,” where his main character, a mouse named Quill, uses sign language to communicate. The hope is that this will help familiarize many non-native American Sign Language speakers to learn about the language. It also gives Deaf video gamers a protagonist they can personally connect with.

Advocacy for the Deaf community is a necessary step toward equality in our society. The misconceptions about Deaf people promote stereotyping and an underappreciation of American Sign Language, when really, Deaf culture has so much to say.

American Sign Language is a beautiful, expressive language that is beneficial to everyone – in video games, songs and everyday life.

This partnership between the deaf and hearing communities does show progress, but there is still more to be done to help alleviate stereotypes and injustice.



Ashley McCann is a junior english and secondary education major. This is her second year on The Flyer, but first as opinions editor.