Tagged Television

As More Deaf People Are Seen on TV, Others Want to Be Heard

Some deaf people identify with shows like “Deaf U.” For others, a deaf contestant on “The Bachelor” who doesn’t use sign language is a welcome change.

As More Deaf People Are Seen on TV, Others Want to Be Heard

As More Deaf People Are Seen on TV, Others Want to Be Heard

Some deaf people identify with shows like “Deaf U.” For others, a deaf contestant on “The Bachelor” who doesn’t use sign language is a welcome change.

From left, Cheyenna Clearbrook, Daequan Taylor and Rodney Burford in “Deaf U,” a Netflix reality series that followed students at Gallaudet University.
From left, Cheyenna Clearbrook, Daequan Taylor and Rodney Burford in “Deaf U,” a Netflix reality series that followed students at Gallaudet University.Credit…Netflix

  • Jan. 27, 2021, 10:00 a.m. ET

While filming the reality series “Deaf U,” Rodney Burford wasn’t too focused on any effect he and his cochlear implants would have on viewers. “In my own mind I was like, ‘Yo, I’m really on Netflix,’” said the 22-year-old cast member of the show, which zooms in on a group of students at Gallaudet University, the nation’s only liberal arts university devoted to deaf people.

Things changed after the show debuted last fall. Parents of cochlear-implant users started reaching out to say how seeing Burford on the screen had made an impact on their children. “So I would say, no question, I’m proud,” he said in an interview. “I am very proud.”

Many deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals have welcomed the increase in visibility that deafness and hearing loss have enjoyed on TV lately. The current season of “The Bachelor,” on ABC, features Abigail Heringer, who is believed to be the first deaf contestant and cochlear-implant wearer on the show; the actress Angel Theory, who is hard of hearing, currently stars on “Kinderfänger” on Facebook Watch and plays Kelly, a character with hearing loss, on AMC’s “The Walking Dead”; and Disney+ has announced that a Hawkeye series in development would feature a deaf Native American actress, Alaqua Cox, as Echo, a deaf Native American superhero.

But for many who use devices like cochlear implants or hearing aids, onscreen representation still falls short by not reflecting enough of their experiences. Jessica Flores, a comedian in San Francisco who wears cochlear implants and grew up in a hearing environment, speaks English and uses sign language (which she learned later in life). Yet, she pointed out, deaf characters tend to be portrayed onscreen as people who sign and don’t speak.

Matt James with Abigail Heringer, in a recent episode of “The Bachelor.” Heringer is believed to be the first deaf contestant and cochlear-implant wearer on the show. 
Matt James with Abigail Heringer, in a recent episode of “The Bachelor.” Heringer is believed to be the first deaf contestant and cochlear-implant wearer on the show. Credit…Craig Sjodin/ABC

“Deaf U,” which follows students on campus as they date, party, gossip and flirt, was praised for showing a diversity of experiences, including those of hearing-device users like Burford. But Gallaudet, which is in Washington, as an institution places emphasis on learning sign language and interacting with other people who are deaf and hard of hearing — experiences that not all people with hearing loss have.

“I have not seen really any perfect representation of my type of deafness” on TV, said Alexandra Dean Grossi, who received a diagnosis of profound hearing loss at age 2 and wore hearing aids before switching to cochlear implants as a teenager; she attended hearing schools and, like Flores, had speech therapy, but never learned to sign.

Growing up, the few deaf actors Grossi saw, like the Oscar-winning Marlee Matlin, used sign language and were usually part of the “capital D Deaf” community — a term used by those who embrace deafness as a cultural identity and communicate primarily through American Sign Language. “But I don’t feel that that represents the hard of hearing and cochlear implant experience very well,” said Grossi, a software designer for the IBM accessibility team.

Grossi, who has also worked as a production assistant and junior writer in Hollywood, expressed frustration at the misconceptions around the experiences of those who are deaf and hard of hearing — especially those of people who live primarily in hearing environments.

When she has tried to pitch shows that featured deaf protagonists whose experiences resembled her own, she said she would often get the feedback that the character was not deaf enough. “And I’m like, that’s the whole point,” Grossi said. “You know, there’s so much nuance that you’re missing.”

As a teenager, Flores felt the absence of thoughtful representation. She spent years “being like, ‘Oh, I’m alone,’” she said. “Nobody’s going to understand me,” she remembered thinking.

Seeing someone you can identify with on TV — “that’s like giving us a big hug,” said Jessica Flores, left, a comedian who has a YouTube channel.Credit…via Jessica Flores

That is, until Flores came across Amanda, who also wore hearing aids, in a 2008 episode of MTV’s “True Life” documentary series. (Flores has only had cochlear implants for two years.)

Flores teared up, she recalled; seeing Amanda gave her hope and the awareness that there were others like her.

Flores, who had little contact with the “capital D Deaf” community, discovered the power of cultural representation after she started a YouTube channel on which she discusses hearing loss. People started messaging her, sharing how much they identified.

“It was a really emotional moment,” Flores said. Seeing someone you can identify with on TV, she added, can have a similar effect. “That’s like giving us a big hug.”

Ashley Derrington, a blogger for Hearing Like Me, a platform devoted to hearing loss, also experienced that when seeing Heringer on “The Bachelor.”

“She’s one of the first speaking deaf people that I’ve seen in mainstream media, so it highlights that deaf does not just mean sign language,” said Derrington, who is hard of hearing and communicates verbally.

“I don’t personally identify with just the ‘capital D Deaf community,’ but I don’t identify with just the hearing world,” said Derrington, who was fitted with hearing aids around age 2. “I’m just sort of like the outsider that has associations to both worlds.”

Shoshannah Stern, an actress and writer who grew up in a deaf family, uses hearing aids and communicates verbally, said in an interview, “There are so many stories within the deaf community, so many experiences to be represented.”

Stern said that she wanted to “push back against the expected version” of stories about deaf people as defined by hearing creators. That led to “This Close,” a Sundance Now show in which both lead characters are deaf but have different upbringings, and which shows them interacting with people in both the hearing and the deaf worlds. She created the show with Joshua Feldman, who is also deaf.

“I have not seen really any perfect representation of my type of deafness” on TV, said Alexandra Dean Grossi, who is working on developing her own show about a deaf protagonist with cochlear implants.Credit…Peter Askim

When working on “This Close,” Stern said, she felt it was important to incorporate the experiences of its cast members who played the deaf or hard-of-hearing characters, including one who wore cochlear implants.

In search of more representation, others are also taking matters into their own hands. Grossi has written a concept for a dramedy based on her experiences. Flores plans to establish her own company aimed at empowering deaf creators in the industry.

“The idea of control within storytelling is complicated,” noted Stern, who has appeared in the shows “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Weeds” and “Supernatural.” “As an actor you only have so much.” That is what pushed her to start writing in the first place.

For those seeking better on-screen representation of deaf and hard-of-hearing experiences, it’s ultimately about validation. “We are all humans,” Grossi said. “We want to reach out. We want to connect. We want to be heard — no pun intended.”

The Challenge of Parenting While Watching a Mob Storm the Capitol

Parenting While Shocked

As the local grown-up, I don’t need to be responsible for fixing everything; helping my girls process their sense that everything seems broken is enough.

Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times
Lisa Damour

  • Jan. 7, 2021, 4:58 p.m. ET

Like many of us, I stood speechless yesterday as I watched rioters storm the nation’s Capitol. My daughters, ages 10 and 17, watched alongside me and were shocked, too. Feeling rattled and helpless, I wanted someone to look after me much more than I wanted to do any parenting myself.

As a psychologist, I’m used to staying levelheaded in chaotic situations. Last night was different; I was pretty much useless. I left my girls in the care of my calm and capable spouse, and spent the evening on the phone and then Twitter seeking assurance that order would be restored. I wanted the sense that there was, or would soon be, a grown-up in the room.

Today, I remembered: I am a grown-up in the room, at least around here. And focusing on that sphere is making it possible for me to join my husband in being the parent my daughters need and deserve.

I don’t need to be responsible for fixing everything; helping my girls process their sense that everything seems broken is enough. Over breakfast, I asked my 10-year-old what she was thinking about yesterday’s events and reassured her that, even though things got out of control, calmer heads have prevailed and I now feel hopeful that things might be moving in the right direction.

Being the grown-up in the room means making space for my girls’ confusion and their questions. Tonight, I will ask both of them what they heard from their teachers and classmates at school, what they wonder, what they think. I know that I won’t have all the answers to their questions, so I’ll just be honest about what I do and don’t know and everything I am still struggling to understand.

It means I have apologized for checking out last night. Had I alarmed them by reacting to yesterday’s chaos strongly or loudly, I would have apologized for that as well.

Being a grown-up means setting aside my misguided belief that compulsively checking social media or broadcast news reports will help me feel better. I have reminded myself that doing so only unsettles me and pulls me away from what I want to be present for: my kids, my spouse, my own work, myself.

It means that I need to be mindful of what media my daughters are taking in as events continue to unfold. My younger daughter gets most of her news from us or with us. We can and will limit her exposure to graphic images and frightening information. If there is something upsetting she needs to know, we should be the ones to tell her so that we can choose the right moment, share the news in age-appropriate language and be prepared to address her reaction.

My older daughter gets her news from us, with us, and also from a vast, complex and largely opaque-to-adults adolescent discourse that unfolds over social media. With her, we will do more listening than talking, seeking to make sure that she’s a critical consumer of what she’s taking in, that she’s working with facts and that she’s thinking for herself.

Yesterday, we watched TV news together as a family, pausing at one point to ask my younger daughter if the reports felt like too much. She insisted that they weren’t, and that she wanted to see what was happening. We deferred to what she knows about herself, and what we know about her and continued to watch together until we switched the television off to have dinner.

Trying to be an up-to-the-job parent as historical events unfold can leave us feeling doubly overwhelmed. Our own sense of, “Oh my God, what is happening?” quickly gives way to other worrisome questions: “How can I possibly explain all of this and fix it for my kids?”

Well, we can’t — at least not today. But to be good parents, we don’t need to. We just have to remind ourselves of the territory we control right now and be the grown-ups there.

‘Two-Minute-Warnings’ Make Turning Off the TV Harder

Photo

Credit Getty Images

Two-minute warnings may work well in sports, but they don’t, apparently, work for children.

New research shows that giving a child a “two-minute warning” before turning off a video game or TV show does not make it easier for a child to turn away from a screen. In fact, it makes it harder.

To learn more about how families manage a child’s screen time, researchers from the University of Washington’s Computing for Healthy Living & Learning Lab interviewed 27 families with children ages 1 to 5 about how they limit and end a child’s viewing time. They then asked a separate set of 28 families to fill out a diary describing each time their child interacted with a screen over a period of two weeks, including how the screen time experience ended, whether the child was upset with the ending, and how the screen time fit into a child’s ordinary routine.

Parents reported that their children were significantly more upset, more often, when given a warning that screen time was about to end than when screen time was stopped without a warning.

It’s a small study, but a detailed one, and its results surprised the researchers.

“We had thought that giving kids a little bit of a warning to set expectations would help things go better, and it actually made them much worse,” said the lead author, Alexis Hiniker, a University of Washington doctoral candidate in human-centered design and engineering.

Julie Kientz, associate professor of human-centered design and engineering at the University of Washington and the paper’s senior author, said the researchers had a theory: maybe instead of easing a child’s transition away from screens, a two-minute warning prepares them to fight it.

“This is definitely the age where parents are trying to avoid power struggles and kids are very welcoming to them,” said Dr. Kientz. “We think possibly that the two-minute warning kind of primed them for knowing that there was going to be this battle.”

To be certain that the behavior was related to the two-minute warning, the researchers culled through their data, looking for other associations. Did the parents offer the two-minute warning only before less pleasant activities, or before parents were getting ready to leave? But they weren’t able to find any associations other than the warnings themselves.

Ms. Hiniker said programs that automatically repeat or show previews immediately after a show is over can make it difficult for a child to turn away from a screen. Parents were also successful in easing transitions by blaming the technology, declaring the battery dead, the Wi-Fi broken, or pretending that a program a child watched on vacation was not available at home.

“What the technology itself did made a huge difference,” said Ms. Hiniker. “If the technology was backing the parent up, and kind of saying ‘screen time is done now,’ then things went better than if the parent just told the child ‘you’re done.’”

Making screen time part of a routine also eased the transition away from it, the researchers said. If a screen was always turned off at a particular stage — for example, when breakfast was ready — children rarely objected. But parents, they said, were reluctant to use that as a tool, worried that it would “cement screen time into their schedule” and lead to more.

One final surprise for the researchers, and for the parents who participated in the research: In general, the transitions away from screen time went remarkably well. And in about one in four screen sessions, children turned screens off on their own, something many parents interviewed said had never happened before — suggesting that parents may be putting too much weight on a few negative experiences when they think about screen time.

“About 80 percent of the transitions were totally fine,” said Ms. Hiniker. “In fact a lot of the time kids were happy about it — they were excited to do whatever was coming next.”

Two-minute warnings may work well in sports, but they don’t, apparently, work for children.

New research shows that giving a child a “two-minute warning” before turning off a video game or TV show does not make it easier for a child to turn away from a screen. In fact, it makes it harder.

To learn more about how families manage a child’s screen time, researchers from the University of Washington’s Computing for Healthy Living and Learning Lab interviewed 27 families with children ages 1 to 5 about how they limit and end a child’s viewing time. They then asked a separate set of 28 families to fill out a diary describing each time their child interacted with a screen over a period of two weeks, including how the screen time experience ended, whether the child was upset with the ending, and how the screen time fit into a child’s ordinary routine.

Parents reported that their children were significantly more upset, more often, when given a warning that screen time was about to end than when screen time was stopped without a warning.

It’s a small study, but a detailed one, and its results surprised the researchers.

“We had thought that giving kids a little bit of a warning to set expectations would help things go better, and it actually made them much worse,” said the lead author, Alexis Hiniker, a University of Washington doctoral candidate in human-centered design and engineering.

Julie Kientz, associate professor of human-centered design and engineering at the University of Washington and the paper’s senior author, said the researchers had a theory: maybe instead of easing a child’s transition away from screens, a two-minute warning prepares them to fight it.

“This is definitely the age where parents are trying to avoid power struggles and kids are very welcoming to them,” said Dr. Kientz. “We think possibly that the two-minute warning kind of primed them for knowing that there was going to be this battle.”

To be certain that the behavior was related to the two-minute warning, the researchers culled through their data, looking for other associations. Did the parents offer the two-minute warning only before less pleasant activities, or before parents were getting ready to leave? But they weren’t able to find any associations other than the warnings themselves.

Ms. Hiniker said programs that automatically repeat or show previews immediately after a show is over can make it difficult for a child to turn away from a screen. Parents were also successful in easing transitions by blaming the technology, declaring the battery dead, the Wi-Fi broken, or pretending that a program a child watched on vacation was not available at home.

“What the technology itself did made a huge difference,” said Ms. Hiniker. “If the technology was backing the parent up, and kind of saying ‘screen time is done now,’ then things went better than if the parent just told the child ‘you’re done.’”

Making screen time part of a routine also eased the transition away from it, the researchers said. If a screen was always turned off at a particular stage — for example, when breakfast was ready — children rarely objected. But parents, they said, were reluctant to use that as a tool, worried that it would “cement screen time into their schedule” and lead to more.

One final surprise for the researchers, and for the parents who participated in the research: In general, the transitions away from screen time went remarkably well. And in about one in four screen sessions, children turned screens off on their own, something many parents interviewed said had never happened before — suggesting that parents may be putting too much weight on a few negative experiences when they think about screen time.

“About 80 percent of the transitions were totally fine,” Ms. Hiniker said. “In fact a lot of the time kids were happy about it — they were excited to do whatever was coming next.”