DELAVAN, WI- This year at the Academy Awards, the movie CODA, an acronym for children of deaf adults, won Best Picture of the Year and actor Troy Kutsur took home an Oscar as the first deaf male actor to achieve that honor.
These monumental wins are not going unnoticed by the deaf community.
Center Director of the Wisconsin Educational Services Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Delavan Ryan Gollner says the Oscar wins are significant when it comes to deaf representation. These are Gollner’s words through an interpreter.
“I think it’s great for the deaf community because it brings more awareness to everybody else to know what it’s like to grow up as a person who’s deaf as far as communication, having access, the struggles. I think that they needed to see what happens in our lives everyday,” said Gollner.
He says like in the movie, he’s deaf but has hearing children who are considered CODA’s.
“Sometimes they have to sign for me, which is nice, but I don’t want to depend on them. Like in the movie you see the dad say “interpret for me.” That’s a real struggle for us because of access. We want to know what’s going on. We want to know what people are saying. For example, if I’m in a large area, I don’t know what anyone is saying around us. I may turn to my children for that. So we do depend on our kids to sign sometimes for us. We shouldn’t though. We should be depending on interpreters but it’s really important for the world to see what it’s like.”
Wisconsin School for the Deaf student services assistant Peter Schultz says the recognition of his community was overdue and the film addresses stereotypes that need to be broken.
“There are millions of hearing people watching this stage and seeing what it is from a deaf perspective. Getting rid of some of that stigma that hearing people have for example that we don’t listen to music. In the movie it shows that we can enjoy music with lots of bass. We love that thumping. I think hearing people don’t know very much about deaf culture and so they assume things like deaf people can’t drive or deaf people don’t like music. I think the movie really showed the world that we can do anything that hearing people can do, except for hear,” said Schultz.
Athletic Director at the school Matthew Eby is the only deaf soccer player on a hearing team.
“As a deaf person I can still play. I can still go places where they’re going. I think it’s just spreading the word. Especially about American Sign Language as well.”
Seniors at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf Caleb Zapadinsky and Marissa LaGow say the movie showed a comedic side of his community that most people don’t see.
“I love it (the movie) so much. It was so funny and I think it really showed a good side of our humor, our visual, our culture. I felt like it really portrayed our community,” said Zapadinsky. “It showed a lot of signs as well, for example all the jokes, the inappropriate jokes!” LaGow said.
Center director Ryan Gollner hopes with the CODA Oscar wins, it’s only the beginning of more opportunities for the deaf and hard of hearing.
“The last time a deaf actor won an Oscar was Marlee Matlin and that was 35 years ago. It’s sad that it took that long but I’m hoping now that we’re going to see more and more opportunities for deaf people to win awards and be involved.”
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