A Model of Marginalization

Nyle Top ModelDeaf model Nyle DiMarco’s run on America’s Next Top Model has been a hot topic. Who doesn’t like a rugged hunk with baby blues and washboard abs? Especially one who has been such a brilliant ambassador of the deaf and hard of hearing community?

Unfortunately, being an ambassador has its pitfalls. Like being marginalized on national television.

In last week’s episode of ANTM, Devin took Nyle’s phone and consequently his primary means of accessing conversations. Nyle’s response sent a powerful message about what it feels like when one person’s ignorance cuts you off from other people.

He also gained widespread sympathy from viewers, which creates the perfect opportunity to open space for a honest discussion about the deaf experience in America. Devin’s actions gave the public an insight into a pernicious attitude among hearing people that trivializes deaf people and our communication devices. This attitude and resulting behaviors seriously impact deaf and hard of hearing people’s ability to integrate into and feel accepted in hearing communities, particularly in workplaces and social events.

Nyle is far from the only deaf person to experience this marginalization. He just happened to live it out on television, in front of millions. Hundreds of thousands of deaf people, myself included, deal with this in anonymity, every day.

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