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When RNID met Nyle Dimarco…

December 2, 2020

A press release:

 

The deaf activist and executive producer chats to RNID about landmark Netflix show Deaf U in an exclusive Facebook event

RNID, the leading charity working to make life fully inclusive for deaf people and those with hearing loss and tinnitus, has teamed up with American model and deaf activist Nyle DiMarco to discuss the landmark Netflix show Deaf U, which he helped produce. 

In an exclusive Facebook event, Nyle was interviewed by the charity’s ambassador, Samantha Baines, and tackled matters such as the show’s impact on hearing audiences and how it’s been received by the deaf community. 

Nyle DiMarco shot to fame as the first deaf contestant to win America’s Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars. DiMarco, who is from a multi-generational deaf family, was an executive producer of the series “Deaf U,” which premiered on Netflix on October 9, 2020. The coming of age docu-series follows a tight-knit group of deaf students at Gallaudet University, a renowned private college for the deaf and those with hearing loss, giving an unfiltered and unexpected look inside the deaf community. The recent launch ofthe show sparked conversations around the lack of representation of deaf and those with hearing loss on screen.

In a Facebook event, which aired on Friday 27 November, Nyle was interviewed by RNID’s ambassador, actress and comedian, Samantha Baines, who also has hearing loss. The interview included BSL translation and ASL interpretation. The interview will remain on Facebook and can also be viewed on You Tube here

When asked about the representation of the deaf community, Nyle said: “Obviously, we’re a hyper-marginalised community, so my aim was to make a really interesting show that would explore deaf people’s lives and the connections they have with one another. And also to show that we’re just like hearing people. Deaf U was really an opportunity to demonstrate that through our students, to really break the mould and the formula of what people are used to seeing.”

“One of the biggest misconceptions that hearing people have, is that deaf people don’t have a community or a sense of a community. And I wanted to show that it exists. And that it exists on a vibrant campus,” he added. 

Responding to some critics who argued the show misrepresented the deaf community, he said:  

“It’s impossible to see each individual person represented on screen exactly as they are because no one deaf person is the same. Even so, the wider audience is still learning from the representation that we’ve had an opportunity to offer. In over a hundred years since the inception of Hollywood, we haven’t really had our own positioning.  So I do hope that Deaf U can be used and emulated by the entertainment industry and will open many, many doors for the deaf community.”

Netflix has confirmed that members of the deaf community played integral roles in the creation of Deaf U, both in front of and behind the camera, and were vital in developing the series from its inception. The deaf community made up 30% of the crew, 60% of the story producers and 30% of the edit team. Deaf-owned businesses were contracted throughout production, such as the transcription house, ASL Captions, and Convo Communications, which provided aerial footage of Gallaudet’s campus.  Netflix has English language captioning for every title on the service, and titles may also be captioned/subtitled in over 20 languages. For blind members there is over 10,000 hours of audio description on Netflix globally, and original language audio description for most Netflix originals, in up to 36 languages. Deaf U has been made available with SDH and FN features.

Nyle said: “A large percentage of our production crew were deaf or had some sort of hearing loss. This was the first time in history that this has ever been done. We had deaf vloggers on set, we had deaf producers in the field. We hope that this creates a framework for future work to come. I hope at some point, we’ll have 100% deaf people, behind and in front of the camera.”

Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs, RNID, Rob Geaney said: “It was great talking directly to Nyle about Deaf U, and it has been encouraging to see more representation of the deaf community on mainstream settings. We were pleased to hear that Netflix hired a range of talent for all aspects of this show – however work still needs to be done to make sure representation like this is seen across the whole film and television industry.” 

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