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Clarke Alum Juliet: Finding Connection through Commonalities

3 min read

Juliet Corwin, Clarke alum & high school senior.

Clarke alum and high school senior Juliet uses bilateral cochlear implants and receives Clarke’s Mainstream Services at her school. While LSL (listening and spoken language) is her primary mode of communication, Juliet is also proficient in ASL (American Sign Language).

We asked Juliet to share her perspective on why representation matters to children and young adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“Growing up deaf with hearing technology, accurate representation of others who lived a similar lifestyle to my own was very fleeting and difficult to find. Specifically in media such as television, representation of deaf/hard of hearing people can be disappointing.

There is often a lot of inaccuracy and perpetuation of stereotypes. Characters who are deaf are almost always portrayed as non-oral or as oral with thick deaf accents, which is not reflective of reality.

This is in part to make the character seem ‘deaf enough,’ a harmful ideology that many hearing directors and producers buy into.

Additionally, deaf characters’ lives and personalities typically revolve solely around their deafness, suggesting that there is no other depth to them.”

“Specifically in media such as television, representation of deaf/hard of hearing people can be disappointing… deaf characters’ lives and personalities typically revolve solely around their deafness, suggesting that there is no other depth to them.”

- Juliet, Clarke alum and high school senior

“I have had a couple of positive experiences in seeing my lifestyle represented in a satisfactory way. Abigail Heringer, a young deaf woman with cochlear implants was recently on the 25th season of The Bachelor.

While nearly all the interactions between her and others were in relation to her deafness, it was refreshing and relieving to finally see someone in the public eye like me who did not need to defend her deaf identity.

A common disappointment I’ve faced with Deaf* celebrities is their public opinion that someone like me (who wears hearing technology and functions primarily in the hearing world) is not deaf and does not belong to their community.

However, one celebrity who has always been an idol to me is [actress, author and activist] Marlee Matlin. She is a successful deaf woman who recognizes and respects my deaf identity.”

“As far as finding deaf/hard of hearing representation in forms other than television media, it has been a very rare occurrence for me. I do not have memories of seeing myself represented publicly in my childhood, although this may be in part due to my lack of truly searching until later in my life. I remember one instance, in my local library, a sign had figures of children reading, one of whom had a cochlear implant.

This excited me, but it also was a reminder of the absence of simple representation like this in other areas of my life. Often, if I see a person wearing a cochlear implant or signing in ASL [American Sign Language], I try to work up the nerve to speak or sign with them. These interactions can feel daunting, and it may not be public representation, but through them I have met people who changed my life in only a few minutes.” 

Juliet’s writing has also appeared in the Washington Post, Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature and Breath & Shadow.

*According to the AG Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the adjective Deaf, with a capital D, is used to describe “a group that views itself as having a separate culture and identity from mainstream hearing society.”

This group often uses sign language or American Sign Language (ASL) and may not use technology that provides auditory access to the environment. Lowercase d deaf refers to the physical condition of deafness and can also describe individuals who use hearing technology to access sound and Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) to communicate. (For more information about the Deaf community, contact the National Association of the Deaf or the American Society for Deaf Children.) 

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