Hearing loss and deafness are seen more and more frequently in pop culture these days. Hearing loss is one of the most common ailments in America and around the world, so it makes sense that there is more representation in the media. American Sign Language, or ASL, is one of the most recognizable signs of profound hearing loss. Heartwarming viral videos and growing onscreen representation of ASL are helping children with hearing loss cope with their ailment and normalize hearing loss, especially in the younger set.
Disney Connects to Children with Hearing Loss
The Disney company has long been a friend to children with hearing loss. They have many amenities for their guests with hearing loss and are a very popular vacation spot for families with hearing loss. Recently, several videos have gone viral showing costumed characters speaking with deaf children, using ASL. In 2013, during a family vacation to Disney World, a young girl named Shaylee was delighted to meet someone who spoke her language—and it turned out to be Tinkerbell! The video of Shaylee’s reaction caught Disney’s attention, who brought the family back on another vacation and showed how their other characters were learning ASL, too.
Did you ever think you’d watch Mickey Mouse use sign language? Three-year-old Phoenix Fox, who is deaf and communicates through ASL, was overwhelmed when Mickey and Minnie (with the help of a translator) signed “It’s nice to meet you!” to him. Children with hearing loss can often struggle with isolation among their peers, so it is an incredible thing to see their favorite cartoon characters signing to them. This normalizes ASL and can make children with hearing loss feel much more included and special!
Nick News Addresses Children with Hearing Loss
Nick News, a popular news show for children and teens on Nickelodeon, addressed deafness and ASL in 2014. The segment was called “Now Hear This! What If You Were Deaf?” and featured a deaf girl named Isabella, who uses ASL to communicate. Isabella discussed the historic struggles of deaf people who, until recently, were discouraged from signing and looked down upon by society. Isabella showed viewers how her deafness does not hold her back, and that ASL is just another form of language. Segments like this, which are viewed by potentially millions, are important in normalizing hearing loss. Children with hearing loss can see people like Isabella and be inspired by her positive attitude and her ringing endorsement of ASL.
Children with Hearing Loss Get Their Own Superheroes
Is there anything bigger than the superhero trend right now? From books to movies to television, superheroes are more prevalent than ever. Superheroes with disabilities have long been a trope in the genre, but recently several superheroes have been developed for fans with hearing loss. In one comic, popular superhero Hawkeye was given a temporarily goes deaf and must use ASL to communicate with others. There is also a superhero called Blue Ear who wears hearing aids and a series of British comic books called Signs & Voices where all of the superheroes use sign language. Representation in this genre is especially important for children with hearing loss, as it shows that people with hearing loss can do extraordinary things.