In the 2023 Super Bowl, Justina Miles made history as the first Deaf woman to perform at the Super Bowl pregame and halftime shows as a signing interpreter. Not only did she execute a high-energy performance for Rihanna’s halftime show, she also performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” sung by Sheryl Lee Ralph.Although Miles recognizes that this was a great achievement — and not just for people in the Deaf community — we still recognize the lack of accessibility for the Deaf community.
At this year’s game, people were thrilled to hear that there would be three Deaf performers. Along with Miles, the other two were Colin Denny, a Deaf Native American from Arizona’s Navajo Nation, and Troy Kotsur, who won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in the 2021 film CODA.
Yet, we saw once again how people in the Deaf community are neglected and almost completely disregarded when it comes to viewing forms of entertainment.
People who went to the game were able to see both the performance by the artists and the interpreters — but viewers at home could only catch small fragments of the performance from the interpreters.
FOX Sports did broadcast the performance later on their YouTube channel, but why are Deaf people still an afterthought?
Many people in and out of the Deaf community took it upon themselves to voice their concerns. Broadcasters, especially the ones as big as FOX, have the necessary resources and technology to make sure all viewers have equal access to different forms of entertainment.
Technologies such as “Picture in Picture” (PiP) have been around since 1983. This technology shrinks the video into a small player so you can still view the original content, but also simultaneously have a clear view of an interpreter’s signs.
Although, yes, I agree that we can easily find those videos on streaming platforms online, why are they not being televised on the main program? Show those same interpreters in PiP while broadcasting in real-time. Deaf people shouldn’t have to wait hours or days after an event to participate.
Although the NFL has made efforts to become more inclusive with the Deaf community, it’s time to put forth even more.
Deaf people should have the same access as hearing people do. If we say we strive for the inclusivity of all people, why don’t we actually show it?
Although I am privileged in the sense that I am benefiting from being a hearing person myself, I encourage other hearing people to become more involved in realizing that our society has normalized the exclusion of Deaf people.
Don’t just take my word for it. We all need to do the work to educate ourselves about issues in the Deaf community, surround yourselves with people who are Deaf and genuinely put in the work to understand how the Deaf community has been affected by the hearing world’s negligence.
For future broadcasting events, this could be a well-learned lesson: PLEASE, for the love of all that is good, make sure to have PiP or at least a dedicated camera for the signers.
The exposure is great and all but is it really enough? Are we doing enough for the Deaf community? Are we keeping them in mind when producing forms of entertainment?
We can not remain ignorant of the fact that Deaf people enjoy the same things that hearing people do.