The 94th Academy Awards placed American Sign Language ASL interpretation at the center stage. In an unprecedented move by the organizers, the cast, and the creative crew of the movie ‘CODA,’ the 2022 Oscars night became one of the most accessible live events for the deaf community. In a night easily remembered for “that” slapping incident, it is a night that blazes the trail for highlighting ASL interpreting and how the deaf community will be pushed to the mainstream because of the reception of the movie, the actors, and the awards night itself.
ASL Interpreters and the Awards Night
The most emotional moment on Oscar night was reserved for the reception of the best actor Awardee, Troy Kotsur when he accepted his Best Actor award in the Supporting Role for ‘CODA’ when the audience signed their applause. But what made the show more accessible to the deaf community was how the organizers and the participants deployed their licensed and skilled interpreters.
These interpreters signed everything that happened inside the theatre, including idle chatter. These are accessible to deaf audiences through tablets provided to them.
Each deaf nominee had their own interpreter throughout the show, with the organizers providing certified ASL interpreters to accommodate requests. Signed language through professional interpreters hired by the organizers was made available to audiences at home through the Academy’s YouTube and website through a second screen.
Sign language came to the center stage early as the Oscars host Amy Schumer told the crowd, in sign language, how she appreciated the movie. CODA director-writer, Sian Heder, brought an interpreter to the stage to sign her acceptance speech for her best-adapted screenplay award, making it accessible to CODA’s cast. One of the most memorable moments of the night belonged to Kotsur and his interpreter Justin Mauer. Mauer choked up while signing the actor’s acceptance speech. Kotsur is only the second Deaf actor to win a performance award at the Oscars joining Marlee Matlin, who won the Best Actress award in a leading role for her 1986 movie, Children of A Lesser God.
Kotsur himself battled adversity from a young age, pursuing an acting career under challenging circumstances. A challenge punctuated by his emotional acceptance speech. His award-winning performance as the father in the movie ‘CODA’ showed a multi-dimensional character who imbued a deep sense of sadness, all the while presenting a charmingly gruff but witty air despite the inevitability of impending disaster confronting their livelihood.
‘CODA,’ in deaf culture, means “Child of Deaf Adults.” It tells a story about Ruby, the only hearing person in her deaf family, pursuing her passion for going further with her musical education with the fear of abandoning her parents. It also tells of how, without Ruby, her family battled through the limitations imposed by their physical challenges, including losing the only way they could go about without the sole ASL interpreter in the family. What makes this movie a winner is its massive heart set against an unlikely backdrop with powerful storytelling elements that present the characters and the setting as multi-dimensional as ever. This movie also sets apart how powerful language can be and how people can battle through transformative stages through communication. Sign language is an essential element of the story. As far as spoken languages go, the movie transcends barriers and is nothing like anything shown before that could bring awareness to educational interpreting, American sign language, deaf education, and ASL interpretation as ever before. Fortunately, the Oscars helped provide an opportunity to make the broader audience aware of the deaf community and the importance of American sign language.
Takeaways: American Sign Language and Deaf Awareness
As one of Arizona’s foremost experts in providing language translation services, including American Sign Language (ASL), simultaneous interpretation, and translators equipment services, A Foreign Language Service (AFLS) recognizes the importance of American Sign language interpretation and awareness to a broad segment of society. Our qualified interpreters have provided sterling services for decades to enable the hearing impaired to access a more comprehensive range of services and opportunities. We also exert efforts to make people aware of the importance of interpreter training, believing that American Sign Language is an essential tool to help more people with challenged hearing abilities to live normal lives. We recognize and appreciate how the movie ‘CODA’ and the Oscars brought ASL interpreting and sign language back into the conversation in the mainstream. As the 400 Language People, AFLS is working to bring awareness about deaf culture, social acceptance, and understanding among people worldwide. We will do our part to bridge the barriers among languages to make more people’s lives better.