Excuse me? Deafness is no disability to these stars

Dec 09, 2016 04.00PM |

by Jonathan Leong

MANY people may think that being deaf is a physical disability but that’s not how these people see themselves. From celebrities to the average Joe, the deaf community has been showing the world what they can get accomplished, which seems to be anything – except hear.

Here’s a round up of some deaf people making the news recently for what they’ve accomplished:


1. The South Korean tennis ace


Image is a screenshot from ATP’s website.


Mr Lee Duck Hee, 18, a South Korean junior professional tennis player was ranked at a career high of 143rd globally last month by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). He is also deaf but that’s not stopping him from striving to be one of the best players in his country, having already ranked second-highest in the under 18 category.

In the fast paced game, some top players say that being able to hear the ball is an important advantage. According to The Straits Times, a college tennis coach and volunteer coach for the US deaf tennis team, Mrs Katie Mancebo said: “But a deaf player doesn’t know that sound, so they have to focus more on what the other person is doing, how they’re making contact, and what the ball looks like as it’s coming over the net.”

While Mr Lee has yet to play in a main match in an ATP World Tour tournament, which has a prize award of more than $2 million for topping the Singles category, he has managed to reach the finals of an ATP Challenger event. The ATP Challenger is just one step down from the ATP World Tour.


2. The model who danced his way to fame 


Image from Flickr user Maryland GovPics.


Mr Nyle DiMarco, 27, might have been the last winner of the TV series, America’s Next Top Model (ANTM), but he was also the reality show’s first deaf contestant. He shared with Daily Mail that he felt “his journey is proof of how ‘deaf people can do anything’.”

And Mr DiMarco’s journey didn’t stop there. Along with his dance partner Peta Murgatroyd, 30, both have gone on to captivate the judges of another TV series, Dancing With The Stars, with their dance routines in May, earlier this year. They won the contest even though Mr DiMarco could not hear the rhythm of the music he was dancing to.

The dancer said he had to rely on signals and physical cues from his partner to keep him dancing in time to the music. For example, Mrs Murgatroyd would squeeze his hand to let him know that he needed to turn around.

In an interview earlier this year, Mr DiMarco told People through an interpreter that he was “ready to take the world by storm and have them look at me and say, ‘deaf people can dance'”.


3. NBA’s first deaf player


Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Another athlete that has been inspiring people is Mr Lance Allred. He was the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) first deaf player.

Mr Allred got his chance to play as an NBA player after an overseas basketball stint in Turkey and Spain. He earned his spot first, in the NBA’s Developmental League with the Idaho Stampede. He was then later signed on, in 2008, by the Cleveland Cavaliers for 14 months.

He retired from basketball last year to become a motivational speaker, sharing with people how he overcame both being bullied because of his deafness, and said bullying’s resulting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

He was recently featured by Forbes earlier this year in March for creating Manestream, a tech company which aims to provide faster access to Internet resources. This system works through a network of online servers, and secured data storage providers which enable users to work on the web without the need for a hard drive.


4. Deaf but with a flair for acting


Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Mrs Marlee Matlin, 51-year-old deaf Academy Award winner lost her hearing at a young age but chose to pursue an acting career, becoming successful and winning the award, at the age of 21, in 1987 for her role in Children of a Lesser God.

She went on to star in TV drama series Reasonable Doubts in 1991 as well as explore humorous roles in various shows such as Seinfeld and Picket Fences, in 1993. Mrs Matlin was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress for her role in both series in 1994. She has since received three more Emmy Award nominations for the same award, with the latest in 2004, for her guest appearance in TV drama, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

One of Mrs Matlin’s more recent performances is in a television film, Sweet Nothing in My Ear in 2008, as the mother of a deaf child. The film looks at the issues surrounding cochlear implants, a type of device that picks up sound and sends it as electric signals to the brain, giving a deaf person some sensation of hearing.

A year later, in 2009, she published a memoir, I’ll Scream Later.


5. The ‘not so average Joe’ deaf driver


Image is a screenshot from TNP’s website.


Among all the celebrities is a local deaf man who’s had a taste of celebrity himself. Mr Roland Goh is an UberX driver who was featured by the The New Paper (TNP) as part of a group of deaf Uber drivers who have benefited from a deaf-friendly app called Beethoven which assists the drivers with picking up passengers.

The app includes features such as flashing lights to indicate an incoming notification as well as notifying passengers that their driver is hearing impaired. Mr Goh has made over 2,900 trips since the start of the year, in March.

Mr Goh told TNP at the launch event of Beethoven on Sept 26, through an interpreter: “Some passengers who are riding with me for the first time are curious and will ask if I can drive (because of my disability) and whether I can hear cars honking.”

For easier communication with his passengers, he provides a small clipboard with paper for them to write messages for him. He also has a sign to inform passengers of his hearing impairment.


Featured image ASL fingerspelling: W-A-D by Flickr user daveynin. (CC BY 2.0)

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