6 Newsworthy Deaf/HOH Stories That Will Make You Laugh, Dance, and Cry

July 7, 2017 BY SOFIA ENAMORADO
Updated: March 28, 2018

Have you heard about Kumbuka the Deaf gorilla, or about the impressive group of Deaf dancers dancing their way around the world? Here are six incredible stories you may have missed that are positively impacting the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Mandy Harvey on America’s Got Talent

At 18 years old, Mandy Harvey lost her hearing due to a connective tissue disorder. At the time, Mandy was at university, studying to become a jazz teacher, when suddenly, her hearing began to deteriorate. She had been singing since she was 4 years old, and had planned her career around music, but then she began to lose her hearing and it felt like she was also losing her dream.

Now at 29 years old, Mandy stunned the world with her captivating voice on America’s Got Talent. Mandy’s touching story of conquering and overcoming unforeseen obstacles was depicted in her original song, “Try,” which she sang for the judges.

Chance the Rapper and DEAFinitely Dope Collaboration

“We will have interpreters at the show which will be a new thing going forward to help everybody be able to enjoy the show.” – Chance the Rapper in an Instagram video

While many venues offer interpreters for musical performances, often Deaf/HOH individuals must request or hire their own interpreters.

In a partnership with DEAFinitely Dope, Chance the Rapper and Matt Maxey, DEAFinitely Dope’s founder, are working to change the status quo and make concerts more accessible.

After watching Matt Maxey’s enthralling interpretations at Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee, Chance immediately sought to hire the DEAFinitely Dope team to interpret his own 2017 tour.

“Hip-hop is purely visual with all the metaphors, wordplay and different moods that tracks may depict, so I must learn the words first, then I understand the song,” said Maxey in an interview with The Undefeated. “I start signing the English words to the song to get my hands used to the song speed and mood, and lastly I picture it from the perspective of the artists and add the ASL twist to it by showing what the artist is talking about so that the message becomes clearer.”

Watch Matt’s incredible interpretation of Chance’s performance below.

Chris Pratt’s Instagram Apology

After posting a video on Instagram telling his fans to “listen up,” some fans found his remarks to be insensitive to the Deaf/HOH community.

Using American Sign Language (ASL), Pratt followed up with an Instagram video apologizing to his fans.

“When I made a video recently with subtitles, and requested that people turn up the volume and not just ‘read the subtitles’ it was so people wouldn’t scroll past the video on mute, thus watching and digesting the information in the video. HOWEVER, I realize now doing so was incredibly insensitive to the many folks out there who depend on subtitles. More than 38 million Americans live with some sort of hearing disability. So I want to apologize,” said Pratt in the video.

In addition, he urged Instagram to begin implementing captions on their videos.

“Shouldn’t there be an option for closed captioning or something? I’ve made them lord knows how much money with my videos and pictures. Essentially sharing myself for free. I know they profit. So… GET ON IT INSTAGRAM!!! Put closed captioning on your app.”

Instagram does this thing where it mutes all the videos it shows and forces you to turn on the volume in order to hear them. (maybe because most people are watching those videos at work when they should be working and don't want to get caught. I know that's when I do it. ) So when I made a video recently with subtitles, and requested that people turn up the volume and not just "read the subtitles" it was so people wouldn't scroll past the video on mute, thus watching and digesting the information in the video. HOWEVER, I realize now doing so was incredibly insensitive to the many folks out there who depend on subtitles. More than 38 million Americans live with some sort of hearing disability. So I want to apologize. I have people in my life who are hearing-impaired, and the last thing in the world I would want to do is offend them or anybody who suffers from hearing loss or any other disability. So truly from the bottom of my heart I apologize. Thanks for pointing this out to me. In the future I'll try to be a little less ignorant about it. Now… I know some of you are going to say, "Hey! Chris only apologized because his publicist made him!" Well. That is not the case. As always I control my social media. Nobody else. And I am doing this because I'm actually really sorry. Apologies are powerful. I don't dole them out Willy-Nilly. This is one of those moments where I screwed up and here's me begging your pardon. I hope you accept my apology. And on that note. Why doesn't Instagram have some kind of technology to automatically add subtitles to its videos? Or at least the option. I did a little exploring and it seems lacking in that area. Shouldn't there be an option for closed captioning or something? I've made them lord knows how much money with my videos and pictures. Essentially sharing myself for free. I know they profit. So… GET ON IT INSTAGRAM!!! Put closed captioning on your app. #CCinstaNow

A post shared by chris pratt (@prattprattpratt) on

Master of None Highlights Deaf Culture

Through Master of None, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang want to surpass stereotypes and depict the realities of modern day life.

In season 2, episode 6 of Master of None, the camera moves away from the show’s protagonist, Dev Shah, towards a new set of ordinary New Yorkers, including a charming Deaf cashier named Maya, played by Deaf actress Treshelle Edmond.

Suddenly, when watching the episode, the volume switches off and we are immersed in Maya’s silent, but comical world.

“…The deaf couple, normally when you see those people on shows, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, this poor person!’ Or it’s all about them being deaf. And when we talked to deaf people about their lives, they were like, ‘Yeah, it’s so annoying, anytime we see deaf people on a show, there’s sad music playing and you never just see them dealing with the same problems you see other characters dealing with.’ I was like, ‘This is exactly what our show is about,” Aziz told Vulture in an interview about the episode.

Maya from Master of None working as a cashierImage courtesy of Netflix

Gallaudet Dance Company

Meet the dancers from the Gallaudet Dance Company.

These aren’t your typical dancers who rely on beats to dance. Instead, they feel the music.

The Gallaudet Dance Company is a group of about 15 Deaf/HOH dancers. It was created in 1955 by Dr. Peter Wisher, who saw beauty in the movement of signs and decided to create a recreational group for students to turn the signs into dance movements.

Today, the recreational group has grown into a professional dance company, performing all over the world.

Deaf and hard of hearing, these dancers bust a move by feeling the music. (via AJ+)

Posted by Upworthy on Friday, May 13, 2016

Kumbuka the Deaf Gorilla

While gorillas rely on vocal cues to communicate, Kumbuka is a bit different. Zookeepers noticed that Kumbuka wasn’t responding or reacting to commands, so they decided to test Kumbuka’s hearing using an ABR test. Doctors uncovered Kumbuka was actually deaf.

After finding out Kumbuka was deaf, zookeepers have adjusted the way they communicate with Kumbuka, using visual cues, instead of audio cues.

Kumbuka lives in a zoo in Florida and has been an inspiration for many individuals in the deaf and hard of hearing community.

In a segment by WHIOTV, two young boys with hearing loss share how they relate with Kumbuka.

Kumbuka the gorilla inspires kids

Kumbuka, a 20-year-old gorilla at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, is inspiring kids who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Zookeepers recently confirmed Kumbuka is deaf: http://bit.ly/2nn5bi8

Posted by Action News Jax on Friday, April 7, 2017

Want more inspiring stories from the Deaf/HOH community? Check out our storytelling project, Faces Behind the Screen by clicking the link below.

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