Today, Nyle DiMarco won Dancing with the Stars with his dancing partner, Peta Murgatroyd.
People not only from America, but from all over the world cheered for him.
Because Nyle DiMarco is deaf.
A deaf person, in a dancing contest? But…. that’s silly. That’s like… a blind person trying to be an artist?
Oh. Okay, I suppose there are some blind people out there who can paint. Mm.. okay. How about this? People with no legs… wait for it… running! Or people with no arms… swimming! Ha!
*insert a rolling eyes face emoji here*
(That had me in tears. Check this one out too)
Oh. I guess some people are able to do that. How about thi-
No. How about you shut up?
He won because he was a shit hot dancer. Yes, he wasn’t able to hear the music, but when you can’t do one thing, does that mean you give up? No. You find an alternative way. If the front door is locked, do you sit outside your house all day simply because you can’t get in the house in the conventional way? No, you ask someone for a ladder and climb up the ladder to squeeze in a tiny bathroom window with an already suspected broken thumb.
Yes, this has happened to me before.
(The aforementioned window)
Nyle wasn’t able to hear the music but with perseveration, determination, communication and support from his partner, he was able to deliver. That’s what it’s all about.
Communication and support.
“Communication is a huge, huge part of this whole competition. It’s only us speaking, only us moving together as one. we’ve got to make sure we have that down.” – Peta Murgatroyd.
Nyle couldn’t hear but Peta could. She showed him the moves, told him when the beats were, devised a series of cues to direct him such as turning the wrists, tapping and eye contact. In return he showed her a new way of communication, he challenged her teaching methods and together… they both came alive.
They came from very different backgrounds and have different life experiences, but they were able to come together as one.
Overcoming obstacles sometimes means looking at it a different way.
They danced to the song, ‘Sound of Silence’ by Disturbed. The band allowed them to dance to the song after reading a very moving letter from Nyle.
‘My name is Nyle DiMarco. I am Deaf. I’m the fourth generation and I have over 25 Deaf members in my family. I am now in the semi final towards the Mirror ball on Dancing with the Stars. I am writing this letter to let you know how much your song ‘Sound of Silence’ means so much to me and my Deaf community and that I would love to dance to your song for the finals. I feel this is important for you to know that we the Deaf people underwent a terrible history and we are still stuck in the darkness. The darkness of oppression that your song truly reverberated to me.
Before the year 1880, we the Deaf people lived normal lives. we were perceived normal. We held political positions. We joined the army. We had jobs. We had an education through sign language that greatly benefited to our visual eyes and silent ears. It was until the Milan Conference in 1880 that led to language deprivation and… ultimately our culture, job opportunities, and our intelligence. We were tortured. Our ancestors underwent electric shock chairs, surgeries (without anaesthesia), and so many more torturing methods just to help us regain our hearing. We were also punished if we used sign language. We were whipped. Slapped with our rulers. Abused. We were requited to try and learn to speak (and that always, always miserably failed).
We also lost jobs. Many now perceive us as disabled, that we can’t serve the army, hold political positions, nor teach.
Because of the conference that almost led to the death of the Deaf culture (and was basically genocide and cultural-genocide), we are still trying to get out of the dark. I just founded Nyle DiMarco Foundation and our focus is on Deaf kids. We are working with state and U.S. senators to write and pass the bill that requires bilingualism (American Sign Language) because it was recently proved by science that it will benefit the Deaf child a lot more than English only. We feel that with you, your song, and us, we will make/change history and help people better understand our history, and build allies all over the world to help better Deaf lives.
Help us resurface from our darkness, from the systematic oppression. There is power in Sound of Silence. We hope you will grant us the permission. Lets change history together!
Now, I’m not usually one to laud praise and admiration because someone won a dancing competition. It’s not why people all over the world cheered for him. No, it goes way deeper than that.
That wasn’t a letter from a model, asking a band to use their song because, you know… he wanted to win and be more famous and all that shit.
No. It was a letter from an intelligent guy who graduated from university with a Maths degree (ugh) with the intention teach deaf children in their first language, American Sign Language, who suddenly was put on a new path and decided to use his new-found fame for the better good.
Nyle is trying to highlight the oppression that deaf people have faced for many years and are still doing so, and trying to change that by advocating for Sign Language to be used by parents along with English, instead of English only. He directs attention to his Foundation. The Foundation aims to improve access to accurate, research-based information about early language acquisition – specifically, the bilingual education approach. Through the early intervention process, the child’s language and literacy development should be the focal point.
When a deaf baby is born, their parent will hear this.
“I’m sorry, but your child is deaf.”
Straight away, your baby has a negative label put on them. Barely a day old and apparently already a disappointment?
This is Audism.
Audism – The notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or to behave in the manner of one who hears, or that life without hearing is futile and miserable, or an attitude based on pathological thinking which results in negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear.
Let me take this situation and put it in a different context.
“I’m sorry, but your baby is white/black/yellow.”
Would this be acceptable? No. What is it? It’s racism, that’s what it would be.
Lets take those two situations and put them side by side. Guess which would cause public outrage. Guess which would be… simply forgotten?
Why is this still happening every day?
Take a look at this video from Alex Jones talking about Audism.
Bilingualism works. I am living proof of it. I grew up in a Deaf family and British Sign Language was my first language, English is my second, and I am able to use both fluently. The reason for this?
I was given communication tools at a very early age, therefore I was able to express myself and understand what was being said to me when I was unable to hear. Some children are not able to do that, and I find that very sad.
‘Most of the Deaf people do not get any education in developing countries and approximately 80% of the world’s 70 million deaf people do not have any access to education. Only about 1-2% of the Deaf get education in sign language.’ – World Federation of the Deaf.
This needs to change. This is a violation of our human rights
Human rights – All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education, or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. The improvement of one right facilities the advancements of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.
This is the 21st century and yet, it feels like we’re in the Neothlithic Era. Why are we still fighting for the right to be able to use our language in schools?
That’s why I’m applauding Nyle. He could’ve spoken about himself, to bathe in the adoration of his fans and all that. Instead, he chose to talk about education, human rights and his Foundation. Good on him.
It’s not only Nyle that’s making a name for himself at the moment.
Colin Allen, the President of the World Federation of the Deaf and the newly elected Chair of the International Disability Alliance (the second Deaf person to hold this role) took to the stage at the World Humanitarian Summit to highlight the importance of accessibility for people with disabilities in the event of any natural disasters or crises.
You can see his speech here.
Alastair McEwin has been appointed as Disability Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission.
(Alastair McEwin (far right) with Attorney-General Senator George Brandis with age discrimination commissioner Kay Patterson, human rights commissioner Edward Santow)
“We still have a long way to go in recognising the human rights of all people with disabilities, and I look forward to working with the government, the disability sector and the human rights commission to realise equity for all people with disability.” – Alastair McEwin.
Last year, Rebecca Atkinson, a journalist and creative disability consultant, established the online #ToyLikeMe movement in April 2015 to call on the global toy industry to positively represent 150 million disabled children worldwide. A change.org petition gathered over 20,000 signatures. This year, Lego responded by introducing a mini figure that uses a wheelchair.
On Saturday, Satoshi Tamura from Japan became the first Deaf man to climb Everest.
I am incredibly proud of them all. We need more people to fight and prove that we are able to do anything.
However, why should we have to prove that we can do anything? Of course we can do whatever we like. It just takes determination, effort and commitment.
We need to stop seeing disability negatively, and embrace individuality instead.
Equity and Equality.
Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same. Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help.
This is what we should be fighting for.
Give sign language legal recognition all over the world. Give us the chance to express ourselves in our own language. Even better, why don’t you learn sign language?
I’ve made the effort to learn your spoken language, why don’t you make the effort to learn mine?
‘If you have a dream, don’t just sit there. Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.’ – Roopleen.