Closing the accessibility gap for deaf community leading up to Super Bowl

INDIANAPOLIS – Arguably the biggest night in sports is almost here. Super Bowl 57 is just days away but not everyone is physically able to enjoy the game as so many of us do. 

“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 is deaf and was born into a deaf family. She most recently performed the National Anthem at the Bears game on Christmas Eve. 

She says deaf performers do not get the attention they deserve.

“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 sports fanatic who is also deaf. He expresses the same concerns.

“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.

He says an equitable viewing experience for the deaf community is having the deaf performer on screen at all times. 

“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.

This year three very well-known deaf performers will perform at Super Bowl 57.

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

Friedman says a way to increase accessibility is a partnership between major broadcast companies and those like DPAN.

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

The deaf community will continue to fight to bring awareness.

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

Friedman says that the NFL partners with a nonprofit organization to make sure there is an ASL performance at every game. She hopes other organizations can start to follow that model.

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