National Association of the Deaf

Media



Position Statement on Portrayal of Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in Television, Film, and Theater

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) recognizes that portrayals of deaf and hard of hearing people in film, television, and theater have a significant impact on the public image of our community. There is no shortage of professional deaf and hard of hearing actors to fill these roles.

The NAD celebrates the diversity, richness and complexity of our people and our language. Towards these means, we advocate that all portrayals of deaf and hard of hearing people depict us as we really are: members of a vibrant community with the same diversity that exists throughout the world. We call upon networks, studios, companies, producers, writers, directors, casting directors, and all decision makers to take upon the artistic responsibility of actively portraying the rich tapestry of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in an accurate and authentic manner.

Our rich culture, infused with its own language and heritage, must be represented with responsibility. We identify ourselves as deaf or hard of hearing, and we ask that we be referred to as such. Phrases such as “deaf-mute”, “deaf and dumb”, and “hearing impaired” are inaccurate and not acceptable.

We call for increased casting of deaf and hard of hearing actors in all roles. We believe that deaf and hard of hearing actors should be hired for all roles written as deaf and hard of hearing characters, and we oppose any production that hires hearing actors for these roles. Our unique identities are forged by our lifelong experiences, and no amount of research and training can prepare a hearing actor to approximate what it is like to be or to sign or speak like a deaf or hard of hearing person.

We call upon productions that involve deaf and hard of hearing characters and themes to attain well-researched portrayals of our language and our community. Care must be taken to represent and respect American Sign Language (ASL) as a language separate and distinct from English, with its own rules for grammar and structure. We call upon productions to utilize qualified deaf and hard of hearing experts to serve as consultants and Sign Masters to ensure the appropriate usage and veracity of ASL translations.

We also recognize that notwithstanding the available talent in the deaf and hard of hearing community, this community is underrepresented throughout the entertainment industry in the fields of writing, directing and producing.  Towards these means, we advocate for the development of initiatives and programs that will develop and provide equal opportunities for aspiring deaf and hard of hearing individuals in these fields.

Audiences have the right to portrayals of deaf and hard of hearing people that show us as we are so that increased understanding, acceptance, and equality for all will be achieved. The National Association for the Deaf, as the premier civil rights organization of deaf and hard of hearing people, is available as a resource to assist in all efforts.

Recent NAD Action Highlights