Faces Behind the Screen (FBTS) is a storytelling project focusing on individuals who benefit from a more accessible web. FBTS was launched in early 2017 with the hope of spreading awareness about web accessibility by sharing photos and interviews of people with various sensory impairments, including d/Deaf, hard of hearing, blind, and low vision individuals.
“I was born with albinism, which is what caused my visual impairment. I grew up having to learn how to navigate the world with low vision, while also being aware that my skin color was different from the rest of my biological family.
Growing up in an indigenous community was hard. Not only was my low vision a challenge, but it was also hard to accept my skin color. Being taught about the history of Indigenous communities with white Europeans, made me struggle with accepting the color of my own skin.”
“I’m really lucky and happy to be able to meet the people within the hearing loss community. They are all from different kinds of backgrounds and varying degrees of hearing loss, some people have come to terms with their hearing loss. Some people haven’t. Some people try to hide it. Some people are very expressive with it.”
“I’m not so much trying to bring in more interpreters, but trying to improve the quality of music. The whole idea started from me watching interpreters. I was like, OK, I’m deaf, and I’m learning sign language… why can’t I understand the interpreter?”
“Not knowing that she had hearing loss before three, I felt guilty because I work in early intervention. I didn’t even notice it. So I was feeling guilty for a long time. We made up for the years that we lost.”
“I was born and raised in a more oral method of instruction for the deaf where they teach you to speak and understand lip-reading. My father didn’t actually permit me to sign. And that was the 1970s or so. My mom did sign a little bit, mainly just home signs (invented gestures), but my father required me to speak when he was around.”
“When my hearing changed so dramatically, I wondered how I would be able to continue working… I couldn’t see a path forward with how I would function in my personal life and my work life. For me, getting a cochlear implant gave me my life back.”
“My blog is a place where I can communicate everything that I have experienced while living with hearing loss, and it’s also a place for other people who have lived or continue to live with what I have, to feel accompanied and to understand that they are not alone. For me, the solitude I felt during my silence was what affected me the most.”
“Hearing loss is sometimes invisible, and don’t assume that just because someone gets a hearing aid or cochlear implant that it’s fixed — because we are still deaf or hearing impaired. The technology is a miracle, but at the same time don’t assume that it’s going to fix it.”
“I was in a coffee shop, and I was meeting with a person for the first time who’s hard of hearing. We were just sitting there talking and this big guy came in with a clipboard. He’s coming to different tables and he’s asking people something. He comes to our table and mumbles something. I told him we have hearing loss and asked that he please repeat himself. He turned around and walked off. I figured it couldn’t have been too important. Well, I was wrong, apparently. I went back out to the parking lot. My car was towed.”
“I love being deaf. I wouldn’t change that for the world. People ask me, would you do it over? Would you want to be born hearing? I’m like, no, because I appreciate things a lot more being deaf. And it’s nice to be able to shut out the world if I have to. I think the best part of being deaf is that I get to see the world in a different way. I love my mornings where I don’t have to put my ears in yet. I just go about my routine, and it’s just a different world for me. Just my own little world. I love that. It’s my favorite part of my day.”
“I feel like I’m breaking barriers. And I really want to just get involved and work and open up those doors, so that more and more Deaf, hard of hearing, disabled actors of any sort will be able to get their foot in the door and have work in TV, film, and stage. If that’s their passion, that’s their dream, they have the right to make their dreams come true. And I want people to be sensitive enough to include those people at the table.”
“I hear screaming/crying babies less. Unfortunately, sometimes, I can still hear them depending on how close they are, but for the most part, the sound is less for me than it would be a hearing person. Sorry, babies. I understand why you cry, but it hurts.”
“My parents are both deaf, and ASL was my first language. English is actually a second language for me.
In our family we had a footstool that would sit by the TV, and that was the interpreter’s footstool because we didn’t have closed captioning back then. Growing up there was the Vietnam War, and that [was] the first war that was really televised. So I would sit on the footstool next to the TV and interpret the news and update Mom and Dad.”
“My experience working as a Deaf actress has been amazing. I have been blessed to be able to show authenticity in my roles as to what real Deaf/hard of hearing people are going through in their everyday lives. More importantly, the actual depiction of Deaf and hard of hearing people can be seen as having the same issues as those that are hearing, both good and bad. For instance, Master of None — I was able to portray situations that I, personally, deal with daily. We really aren’t any different. The only thing we can’t do is hear.”
“I’ll never forget it. I walked into the [convention] with my bags… and there were hundreds of people with hearing loss, talking to each other, and reading their programs, and planning their schedules, and which seminars were they going to go to. And I burst into tears. I was thinking about my mother, and how this is what she needed… what would have made her life so much better. And I knew that, for myself, it was going to be OK. I’ve got this.”
“My third grade teacher was trying to keep separate two other kids in the class. And these two other kids apparently were signing to each other. They come from Deaf families, so their first language was sign language. And they were basically talking to each other during class, essentially cheating or playing around, goofing around, not paying attention. And I was the way to keep them apart by being actually put right in the middle of them during third grade. And just like you would have neighbors who might speak Spanish or a different language just by proximity, I started to pick up American sign language.”
“I had two records in the top 100 on the charts, and I had a number one record in Brazil. Suddenly an air horn, like on a boat, went off in the left ear. It was probably a blood vessel bursting. A year and a half later — right ear. No music for 35 years.”
Have you ever felt like there was a miscommunication? “Always. I think I started to realize it when I was in middle school. I was in a group of friends. And they all decided that they didn’t want to be friends anymore because I never talked. Because I was a quiet person. And they said, you can’t be friends with us anymore because we don’t know who you are.”
“To have someone interpret for me requires an awful lot of trust. An immense amount of trust. Sometimes I feel like I just want to push that interpreter out of the way and do it myself. It sucks, but I’m used to it. How else can I get my message across? I don’t really have a choice.”
“I loved how my favorite YouTuber just started using captioning in her videos. And it’s like, oh, my gosh. You’re using captions! I even posted to Facebook– oh, my gosh. She’s using captions And she made a Facebook post and said, ‘I’m aware of you, my hard-of-hearing unicorns.’ And it was like, oh, my god.”
Inspired by the popular photo-interview project Humans of New York, we launched FBTS at the beginning of 2017 to spread awareness about web accessibility. Through photos and interviews, we have been able to share many unique stories that give everyday people a face, a voice, and an opportunity to share their story and perspective.
Our aim is to simply connect the world with these stories, offer a new perspective, hopefully shatter common stigmas and preconceived notions, and remind everyone that the world wide web, including websites, apps, and other digital interfaces, needs to be accessible for everyone – including people with disabilities. Follow us on social @facesbehindthescreen!