What do those people have to do with the recent Super Bowl and what do they have in common? They have some or no hearing and took part in the most popular American event:
- Derrick Coleman is the NFL’s first deaf offensive player to play in Superbowl. His team, Seattle’s Seahawks, won the recent Super Bowl.
- Amber Zion is a Deaf actress and an NTID/RIT alumna who sang the national anthem in American Sign Language.
- Gallaudet Bison is the Deaf university’s football team who played in its first ever NCAA Division III playoff game in 2013 and was honored for their success during the Super Bowl weekend.
Derrick Coleman became the center of attention during the Super Bowl XLVIII after the Duracell powerful video commercial featuring his struggles and achievements as a deaf person. While Derrick is the first offensive player and the first deaf person to play in the Super Bowl and win it, he is not the first deaf football player in the NFL history. There were some deaf people who played before him:
- Bilbo “Mule” Monaghan was the first ever deaf professional football player to play an entire season in 1932 for the Memphis Tigers (and without a helmet!).
- Bonnie Sloan was the first deaf person to play in the NFL in 1973 as a defensive player for the St. Louis Cardinals.
- Kenny Walker was the second deaf person to play in NFL as a defensive player for Broncos in 1991 and 1992.
The Duracell commercial inspired many people, including twin sisters Riley and Erin Kovalcik who are also hard of hearing and wear hearing aids. They wrote a heartwarming letter to Derrick tweeted by their dad that went viral. Coleman took time from his busy schedule and responded back to them with a nice letter. Later he surprised them with free Super Bowl tickets for them and their family when meeting them in person. The girls live in New Jersey where the Super Bowl final game took place.
While it’s great that there was more awareness about deafness during the season, many deaf and hard of hearing people were not pleased with wordings “hearing impaired” and “legally deaf” constantly used by media for the reasons explained in the NAD article. There’s no such thing as “legally” deaf and the “hearing impaired” word is not used by many local, national, and international organizations of deaf and hard of hearing people.
Another thing is that many articles about deaf and hard of hearing people have embedded videos that are not captioned which is very ironic. Some are captioned, but with captions that are hard to read. The following is a screenshot of a non-captioned video about Derrick in an article by CBS This Morning:
How are we supposed to understand what’s said in videos like this one? Hopefully more news media would realize that their aural information need to be accessible to millions of deaf and hard of hearing people everywhere – not only on TV, but also online and at live events.
While not being a football fan, I watched Super Bowl last weekend – which was unusual – because of Derrick Coleman playing there. Another great part of the game that it was open captioned inside a stadium throughout the whole game for many spectators by LNS Captioning. It was also captioned online on FOX website and was reported to be of good quality.
The following is a TV screenshot (that I made and added comments to) showing open captions displayed inside the stadium behind the reporter and closed captions on TV in front of him:
It was also nice to see that all ads on TV were captioned. However, they weren’t captioned well in YouTube or captioned at all. I hope advertisers will take note of that.
Overall, I’m very pleased that people with various hearing levels and communication styles were featured in the popular American sport event and could send the message to the public that deaf and hard of hearing people can do anything but hear. And aural information was accessible via captions inside the stadium, on TV, and online during the Super Bowl.
The following are two videos, one is the Duracell ad featuring Derrick and another by ASL Nook teaching some football signs:
(Video – ASL Nook – Superbowl in ASL)