Over the last decade, digital technology has enabled deaf creative talents to flourish. Their business profiles include the rising presence of deaf audio techs in the film industry, such as Foley artists, composers and sound editors. Over time, several prominent deaf artists have risen to the position of sound and visual storyteller, like Aja Naomi King, Dascha Polanco and Dolores Fonzi.
While these professionals are working in other aspects of production, their work remains a critical part of their industry as they perfect their craft.
In a recent interview, Wes Long, an executive director at the National Association of the Deaf, spoke with the Washington Post’s Rebecca Nelson about how those with her condition have been able to successfully infiltrate the industry.
“Many would argue that there was a lack of representation for Deaf people in all aspects of the media,” Long said. “But, look at today — with the deaf industry creating their own projects and having great success with them.
“Deaf people have always been in the middle of storytelling, but most of them, when given a microphone, didn’t have the tools, the skill set or the experience.”
Even more importantly, their talent has been made evident to the industry that they are capable of stepping into those roles. Now, through a program dubbed IF, the Deaf creatives are making this transition for others to come. It’s aimed at giving more diverse deaf creators a chance to learn their craft, and in the process, giving their stories and visuals a greater chance of breaking through.
“Deaf folks come from a culture that does create art and as people with a disability, we’re defined by our talents. That’s what’s most important for us,” Long said. “I always encourage them to express themselves and bring their talents to the creative realm.”
With any achievement like this, it brings its own challenges. Long recognized that many deaf people struggle with silence. In fact, they may be shaped by it because deafness creates an extreme vacuum of purpose. If Deaf individuals struggle with both impairment and silence, they face a much different set of problems when their talents for creating contribute to the industry.
On the other hand, deaf people who have used their two hearts and voices to create successes share a mission statement called The Two Hearts and Voices. This is basically the struggle that the deaf creators are facing — challenging their own personal problems to create great art.
I asked Long what advice he has for aspiring, deaf artists.
“Finding great listening partners, introducing yourself and your story,” he said. “You’ll get far by starting with something specific that you’re passionate about.”
For more on the growth of the deaf community and the deaf creatives, be sure to read Nelson’s story about the Deaf filmmakers showing what it means to be deaf.