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Reducing the deaf community’s access barrier before the Super Bowl



Indianapolis, Indiana – The perhaps most important sporting event is about to begin. Only a few days remain until Super Bowl 57, but not everyone will be physically able to watch the game as much as the rest of us.

“The most common issue that pops up during something like the Super Bowl is the Pledge of Allegiance being performed or the National Anthem,” said American Sign Language Performer Allison Friedman.

Friedman was born deaf and comes from a deaf household. The last time she sang the National Anthem was on Christmas Eve before the Bears game.

She claims that deaf performers do not receive the respect they merit.

“The camera pans over to the deaf performer, but then it is very brief. They pan right away and we feel underrepresented and we don’t feel like we are important,” said Friedman.

Dwight Casler is a deaf sports enthusiast. He voices the same reservations.

“In terms of accessibility though we have captions and that is not a problem. But the deaf performers that are on tv are one of the issues that the deaf community has been very frustrated with,” said Casler.

Having the deaf performer on screen at all times, according to him, ensures that the deaf population has an equitable viewing experience.

“You could add that through picture and picture at the top left or right corner of the screen and leave that throughout the entire performance and that would be ideal,” said Casler.

At Super Bowl 57 this year, three very well-known deaf performers will take the stage.

“In the broadcast industry, DPAN, they provide live stream services in sign language,” said Friedman.

According to Friedman, a partnership between significant broadcast organizations and organizations like DPAN would boost accessibility.

“We need to roll up our sleeves in the community and work on that partnership,” said Friedman.

The deaf community will keep pushing for greater exposure.

“When we have an interpreter in the corner, that is full accessibility,” said Casler.

According to Friedman, the NFL collaborates with a charitable group to guarantee that there is an ASL performance at each game. She hopes that other organizations will begin to adopt that strategy.

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