Who are the deaf performers at the Super Bowl? Meet Warren ‘Wawa’ Snipe and Sean Forbes

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warren snipe, sean forbes, and dr dre at the super bowl stadium in los angeles

By , Today

This year’s halftime show will also be making history: Two deaf rappers will also be featured in the performance. Thanks to Dr. Dre, Warren “Wawa” Snipe and Sean Forbes will be taking the stage on Sunday night.

Who are the deaf performers at the Super Bowl?
The record producer added the two artists to the lineup to give moving American Sign Language renditions of the songs that will be performed in the halftime show. Other starring artists featured on Sunday night will include Snoop Dogg and Eminem.

Before the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals take to the field at California’s SoFi Stadium, country star Mickey Guyton will sing the national anthem.

Guyton will be joined by actor Sandra Mae Frank, who will perform alongside her in American Sign Language.

When asked what this inclusion of her as a performer during the pre-game represents for the deaf community at large, the “New Amsterdam” star said, “That we are here, ready to be loud and show our talent. We’re not going anywhere, and this is just the beginning of many more to come from deaf artists. We have so many stories to share and work to do. It’s time for the world to open up and give us a voice.”

What is the difference between a deaf performer and an interpreter?
“The difference between a deaf performer and an interpreter is originality,” Snipe told TODAY via email. “A performer creates original artwork through their presentation, whereas an interpreter interprets from another person’s artwork. That’s the main thing but for this event, it’s a bit different. We’re kind of doing both but we’re given the freedom to embody these artists the best way possible.”

Who is Warren ‘Wawa’ Snipe?
Snipe is a talented American Sign Language artist who first stole fans’ hearts at last year’s Super Bowl when he performed the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful” alongside singers H.E.R, Jazmine Sullivan and Eric Church.

When viewers saw what the Philadelphia native did on the field, they instantly took to Twitter to show their appreciation.

“I don’t know about yall but Warren “WAWA” Snipe stole the show!!!” one person wrote.

Another said, “Genuinely obsessed with the ASL interpreter for the national anthem.”

“I ‘grew up’ with Dr. Dre, Snoop, Mary J Blige. What I mean by that is that we’re nearly the same age! I love their influence, their energy and their music,” Snipe told TODAY of the excitement performing alongside the roster of talent. “Their lyrics make me think and I can really relate to them on many of the things they talk about in their songs. In addition, they open up doors for me to express myself through my music and through sign language. I use these experiences as teachable moments.”

Snipe first started his music career in 1994 when he graduated from Gallaudet University. He released his album, “Deaf: So What?!” in 2016 before taking on a featured role in the CW’s superhero show “Black Lightning” in 2018.

Although Snipe is most known for that role, he has been acting for the past 31 years and has been a part of some small projects like 2014’s “The Tuba Thieves” and 2011’s “If You Could Hear My Own Tune.”

Snipe is also focused on bringing attention to dip hop, a niche musical category that he has pioneered.

According to the National Association of the Deaf, Wawa describes the genre as “Hip Hop through deaf eyes.”

On what he hopes people take away from his Super Bowl halftime show performance, he said, “To inspire up and coming artists to realize their dreams and to never give up!”

Click here to read the full article on Today.

Disability Inclusion Is Coming Soon to the Metaverse

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Disabled avatars from the metaverse in a wheelchair

By Christopher Reardon, PC Mag

When you think of futurism, you probably don’t think of the payroll company ADP—but that’s where Giselle Mota works as the company’s principal consultant on the “future of work.” Mota, who has given a Ted Talk(Opens in a new window) and has written(Opens in a new window) for Forbes, is committed to bringing more inclusion and access to the Web3 and metaverse spaces. She’s also been working on a side project called Unhidden, which will provide disabled people with accurate avatars, so they’ll have the option to remain themselves in the metaverse and across Web3.

To See and Be Seen
The goal of Unhidden is to encourage tech companies to be more inclusive, particularly of people with disabilities. The project has launched and already has a partnership with the Wanderland(Opens in a new window) app, which will feature Unhidden avatars through its mixed-reality(Opens in a new window) platform at the VivaTech Conference in Paris and the DisabilityIN Conference in Dallas. The first 12 avatars will come out this summer with Mota, Dr. Tiffany Jana, Brandon Farstein, Tiffany Yu, and other global figures representing disability inclusion.

The above array of individuals is known as the NFTY Collective(Opens in a new window). Its members hail from countries including America, the UK, and Australia, and the collective represents a spectrum of disabilities, ranging from the invisible type, such as bipolar and other forms of neurodiversity, to the more visible, including hypoplasia and dwarfism.

Hypoplasia causes the underdevelopment of an organ or tissue. For Isaac Harvey, the disease manifested by leaving him with no arms and short legs. Harvey uses a wheelchair and is the president of Wheels for Wheelchairs, along with being a video editor. He got involved with Unhidden after being approached by its co-creator along with Mota, Victoria Jenkins, who is an inclusive fashion designer.

Click here to read the full article on PC Mag.

Love Island: Tasha Ghouri becomes show’s first deaf contestant

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Love Island contestant Tasha Ghouri, from Thirsk in North Yorkshire, told fellow contestants she had been completely deaf since birth

By BBC

Tasha Ghouri, from Thirsk, North Yorkshire, gathered the contestants to reveal she had been completely deaf from birth and she wore a cochlear implant in her right ear.

Calling it her “superpower”, Ms Ghouri told them: “It’s just something cool that I’ve got about myself.”

She added: “It doesn’t define me, it’s just a part of who I am.”

On the first episode of the new series, fellow Love Island contestants praised Ms Ghouri for her openness.

Indiyah Polack said: “She was so open about it and I could see in her face that was a big thing for her.

“I just honestly wanted to give her a big hug because I just wanted her to know she’s not alone and we’re all here to support her no matter what she’s going through and we all love her.”

Contestant Luca Bish, a fishmonger from Brighton, said: “Literally, I would not have had a clue, and to say it in front of a bunch of people who you’ve never kind of even met or know… credit to her.”

Hannah Tweddle, a dance teacher who taught Ms Ghouri for about 10 years, said: “She is an amazing person with a wicked sense of humour. She is very kind, very genuine. She is fabulous.”

Of Ms Ghouri’s dancing, she said: “When she was younger, we didn’t really make too many changes for her.

“She could hear enough and with very bassy music she picked up the rhythm and the sound really easily. She was good.”

Click here to read the full article on BBC.

American Sign Language Xbox Channel on Twitch Is a Game Changer for Deaf Gamers: “We Can Finally Participate”

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Guests visit the booth of XBOX during the press day at the 2019 Gamescom gaming trade fair. LUKAS SCHULZE/GETTY IMAGES)

BY Trilby Beresford, The Hollywood Reporter

“To me, accessible gaming, and accessible content in general, means that everybody should have the same experience no matter their situation.”

These words come from Sean McIntyre, whose career in entertainment has included helping to produce live events such as the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and serving as a producer on G4’s Attack of the Show. He’s now the accessibility lead for Xbox Marketing and distribution lead for programming and events. “They should be able to take away what the person next to them does regardless of vision, hearing or language,” McIntyre tells The Hollywood Reporter over email.

Toward one of these goals, Xbox recently partnered with Sorenson, a communications company with an expansive sign language interpreter base, to launch a dedicated channel on Twitch featuring American Sign Language interpretations, strategies and tips to help the community of Deaf and hard-of-hearing gamers actively participate in streams.

In addition to providing interpretations for approximately 25 hours of livestreams a week, the channel will include interviews with game developers, esports tournaments, event coverage, streamer takeovers and spotlights on independent games that never received captioning.

“At Xbox, we are committed to making gaming fun for the billions of people around the world that want to play and create,” Anita Mortaloni, director of accessibility at Xbox, tells THR. “This means continuing to identify barriers to play, making it easier for developers with disabilities to create and be part of the gaming community, and partnering with the disability community to bring their lived experiences into games and how they are built.”

Mortaloni got into accessibility through engineering and a particular interest in inclusive design. During the pandemic, she tells THR that she directly experienced the connection that gaming provided her family “and wanted to make that feasible for as many people as possible to do the same.” That prompted her to lead the accessibility effort at Xbox.

Such a task includes partnering with the disability community to create accessible and innovative experiences. One way that Xbox does this is through the Insiders League — anyone who self-identifies as a person with a disability, as well as allies of the community, can provide feedback directly to Xbox engineering and game development teams.

Another way is through Microsoft’s gaming accessibility testing service, where studios can seek feedback, guidance and support from members of the disability community during their development process. Xbox also offers learning resources for designing and validating the accessibility of a game, and an online course centered around the basics of gaming accessibility and best practices when it comes to hardware, software and assistive technology.

In creating the ASL channel, McIntyre explains that Xbox worked with a team of interpreters from Sorenson — gamers themselves, who understand the intricacies of gaming “lingo” and how its authenticity and accuracy is critical.

One of the features he is particularly excited about is the opportunity to dive into the archives of Xbox titles that predate when most titles started to receive captioning. “There are so many games that those who rely on interpretation have never gotten the chance to experience due to them being audio-only,” says McIntyre, “and it’s all the better that these titles are still fresh today due to so many being available via Xbox Game Pass.”

Game Pass is the brand’s subscription service, in which players can choose a certain plan and receive access to a vast number of studio and independent video game in genres ranging beyond the standard first-person shooters (DOOM Eternal) and racing titles (Forza Horizon 5) to include strategy games (Among Us) and story-driven puzzles (Unpacking), simulation (Stardew Valley), action role-playing (Death’s Door), cooperative cooking (Overcooked 2), seafaring epics (Sea of Thieves), episodic narratives (Tell Me Why), family-themed adventures (It Takes Two) all the way to a calming and charming mail delivery game called Lake.

“I’m really excited for the future and current gamers who are deaf,” Sorenson’s vp of brand marketing Ryan Commerson tells The Hollywood Reporter over Zoom, in a conversation conducted with the assistance of certified ASL interpreter Brad Holt, who serves as an exec at Sorenson. “Especially future generations, because I really know what this means. I understand the implication of something like this. This has huge implications, huge impact.”

Commerson was born into a hearing family, having only one distant cousin who is also deaf. He began learning ASL at 4 months old, with a mother who committed to teaching him and would emphasize the necessity of learning about the world directly through his eyes. “Whatever I saw, that was the information I got,” he recalls. “If it was not written down, if it was not signed to me, I didn’t know it. So, my mom would take time, put the effort in, sitting down and walking me through everything that was going on all the time so I could actually learn about human interaction, the rules of engagement, social cues, cultural norms, learn about pop culture.”

Video games were not a huge part of Commerson’s upbringing, which he partly attributes to the fact that few tools were available for him to communicate properly with other players. These days he’ll get online and play a few games with his young nieces and nephews, which he enjoys.

And he’s fully aware of the landscape: “Gaming in the ’80s and ’90s is not like gaming today,” says Commerson. Back then, he says, gamers were viewed as “weird people, social misfits maybe.” Today, he explains, it’s a way of life. “People learn social skills be playing games. They learn life lessons. They learn how money works. They learn how politics works. They learn the art of negotiating. All through gaming. Gaming is educational. And it’s a new way of educating the younger generations, babies as young as one or two years old. They pick up an iPad and start experiencing life through playing games.”

Click here to read the full article on The Hollywood Reporter.

Barbie releases first-ever doll with hearing aids. 5 other groundbreaking Barbies

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barbies now wearing a hearing aid

By Ishita Srivastava, Daily O

Barbie has been an icon and inspiration for women across the world. Since its creation in 1959, Barbie has evolved from being only a doll for young girls to a global symbol of ‘anything is possible’.

The doll, however, has a long history of lacking inclusivity, in terms of race and body shape. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Lizzo have made the non-Barbie body type ‘stylish’ and as social media is evolving to become a safe space for all body types and races, Barbie has begun making changes of its own.

Here are 5 groundbreaking Barbie dolls that promote body acceptance and racial diversity:

1. HEARING AID BARBIE

On May 11, Barbie’s latest Fashionistas line was announced and it was a reason for joy for many consumers with hearing disabilities. The new collection, for the first time, features a Barbie doll with behind-the-ear hearing aids.

The new line also features a doll with a prosthetic leg and a Ken doll with vitiligo.

Mattel’s Barbie team collaborated with expert and hearing loss advocate Dr Jen Richardson in order to accurately represent the doll.

“I’m honoured to have worked with Barbie to create an accurate reflection of a doll with behind-the-ear hearing aids. As an educational audiologist with over 18 years of experience working in hearing loss advocacy, it’s inspiring to see those who experience hearing loss reflected in a doll,” said Dr Richardson.

While in 2020, Mattel did release a Barbie doll with vitiligo, this is the first time a Ken doll has been released with the skin disease. (Read more about vitiligo Barbie here: 11 fancy Barbie dolls we wish we had in the 90s. Just like the Queen Elizabeth one)

2. DISABLED BARBIE

Barbie’s 2019 Fashionistas line marked the first time Mattel released Barbie dolls with physical disabilities. Available to buy since June 2019, the new line featured a Barbie doll with a prosthetic leg and another doll with a wheelchair.

Similar to Mattel’s collaboration with Dr Richardson to create a Barbie doll with hearing aids, Mattel joined hands with 13-year-old disability activist who was born without a left forearm, Jordan Reeves in 2019 to create the Barbie doll with a prosthetic leg.

Mattel also worked with the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital and wheelchair experts to design the Barbie doll with a wheelchair.

Not only the physically disabled Barbie dolls, Mattel also introduced a Barbie DreamHouse compatible ramp to promote infrastructure accessibility for the physically disabled.

3. BODY POSITIVE BARBIE

Back in January 2016, Mattel announced that Barbie will now be available to buy in three new body shapes; tall, petite and curvy, marking the first time the popularly skinny doll was available in other body types.

At the time, spokeswoman Michelle Chidoni explained that the new Barbie dolls will allow “the product line to be a better reflection of what girls see in the world around them.”

4. ASIAN BARBIE

Named Oriental Barbie, Mattel’s first Asian Barbie doll was released in 1981. The collector doll was a part of Barbie’s Dolls of the World collection.

The Oriental Barbie was released in a long yellow dress with red trimmings and a red and golden-flowered jacket. Oriental Barbie described herself as from Hong Kong. Since Oriental Barbie was the first Barbie of its kind, the face sculpt came to be known as the Oriental / Miko / Kira Face Sculpt.

While Mattel did release an Asian Barbie in 1981, it was ultimately in March 2022 when the toymaker released its first Desi Barbie. To celebrate Women’s History Month, Mattel released a South Asian Barbie who was modelled after Deepica Mutyala, the founder and CEO of makeup brand Live Tinted.

Click here to read the full article on Daily O.

Meet 2022 Gerber Baby! Isa Slish, Born with Limb Difference, Is ‘Amazing Little Girl,’ Says Mom

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2022 Gerber Baby Isa Slish

By Shafiq Najib, People

Introducing the new Gerber Baby!

On Wednesday, Gerber revealed the winner for its 2022 photo search contest as Isa Slish of Edmond, Oklahoma. The bright-eyed baby girl will serve as 2022 Gerber Spokesbaby and take on the adorable and vital role of Chief Growing Officer (CGO) on Gerber’s Executive Committee.

Isa, whom her mother, Meredith Slish, describes as a “strong, amazing little girl” via a press release, will collaborate with Gerber to help the next generation of babies grow and thrive, which includes her serving as official Chief Taste Tester to review new baby food products as well as provide “advice” to the team.

Meredith says her daughter “loves to interact with the world around her and nothing will stop her.”

“Her smile lights up the room and her laughter is irresistible,” the proud mom notes before sharing her unique experience while pregnant with Isa, born in September 2021.

2022 Gerber Baby! Isa Slish of Oklahoma, Born with Limb Differences: 'Strong, Amazing Little Girl'
CREDIT: COURTESY GERBER

“We knew Isa was special, she has shown us that every day since she came into our lives,” Meredith explains. “We found out when I was 18 weeks pregnant that Isa would be born without a femur or a fibula in her right leg.”

“We hope Isa’s story can bring more awareness for limb differences and create greater inclusion for children like her. Because, just like Isa, they too can be or do anything they want!” she says.

Isa’s favorite foods are Gerber Sweet Potato Puffs and Gerber 1st Foods Butternut Squash. Aside from spending her days babbling to her 4-year-old sister Temperance, Isa also enjoys playing with her stuffed hippo and listening to soundtracks from her favorite movies.

The original Gerber baby in the brand’s iconic logo was Ann Turner Cook. In 2010, Photo Search was launched, inspired by the “countless photos sent by parents who see their little ones in” Gerber’s logo. Isa has now followed the tiny footsteps of baby Zane Kahin who scored the Gerber Baby title in 2021.

For the first time this year, Garber will match Isa’s cash prize with a $25,000 donation to the nonprofit March of Dimes’ maternal and infant health programs.

Click here to read the full article on People.

Jo Whiley: What my disabled sister taught me about love and loyalty

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jo whiley sitting with disabled sister frances

By JO WHILEY, Express

Finally, in February 2021, the Government agreed the vulnerable should be fast-tracked, but it was too late for Frances. Following an outbreak in her Northamptonshire care home, she contracted the disease and almost died. In a touching, honest tribute to mark National Siblings Day, which raises awareness of the valuable role they play in the lives of their disabled brothers and sisters, Jo celebrates everything that Frances has given back to her.

The biggest thing I have learned from being Frances’s sister is that sharing how you feel is important
THE PHONE’S ringing again. How many times today? I’m not sure, maybe ten, maybe twenty, it’s easy to lose count. My sister, Frances, is being a pain again, and I couldn’t be happier. Every day she FaceTimes me at 30-minute intervals asking the same questions about my kids, my husband and the dogs: “Where’s Coco? Where’s Steve? Where’s Django?” Frances is 53 and has a rare chromosomal disorder called Cri du Chat syndrome, which means she has physical vulnerabilities and learning disabilities. She is loving, loud and a real live wire. No one forgets meeting Frances.

In January 2021 Frances caught Covid in her care home and was rushed to A&E. She didn’t understand why she was there and wouldn’t tolerate an oxygen mask. Her breathing deteriorated dangerously. We spent a terrifying 72 hours uncertain if she would survive.

So, now, when my sister FaceTimes to find out where everyone is, it’s a joy.

Frances is back in relatively good health. She eats more than you’d think is humanly possible and if she’s staying at Mum and Dad’s house, she’ll wait for me to arrive before getting out of bed so that I can shower her, just like I would when we were kids.

There are over half a million young people and at least 1.7 million adults in the UK with a disabled brother or sister. National Siblings Day, on Sunday, recognises the impact of that on their lives. This year’s theme is What I’ve Learned From Being A Sibling.

So, what have I learnt? I wouldn’t be who I am now without Frances. She has taught me -e g understanding, resilience, a strong sense of justice, compassion and a necessary dark sense of humour.

Being a sister is special. Being a sister to Frances has been life-changing. In a funny way, she’s even guided my career path. My earliest memory is of the two of us getting up early on Saturdays when she was small and listening to Junior Choice on the radio; her favourite song was Puff the Magic Dragon, which she still plays from an old jukebox in her bedroom.

Back then, I had a little cassette recorder, so I used to make radio shows for her. I’d record her voice and play it back to her. It was lovely, she would be so attentive. These were my first radio shows.

For a long while, I wasn’t aware there was anything different about Frances, she was just my little sister. I spent a fair amount of time with my grandparents because Mum and Dad were in hospital with Frances, but I loved that.

Click here to read the full article on Express.

Michael Kutcher On Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities

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michael kutcher smiling at the camera in a black suit

By Karl Moore, Forbes

With a cerebral palsy diagnosis at the age of three, and a life-saving heart transplant after being told he had 48 hours to live at thirteen, Michael Kutcher’s life has been marked less by the obstacles he has faced, and more by the gumption he has displayed in overcoming them.

The leading motor disability today, cerebral palsy can have a wide range of effects. While dealing with limited mobility on his right side and some additional hurdles when it comes to speech, hearing, and eyesight, Kutcher was never treated differently by his family. They created a sense of unity and inclusion, challenging him to keep up with his twin brother, Chris (professionally known as Ashton), and his sister, Tausha.

“I think that’s really what gave me the driving power to overcome challenges and obstacles,” Kutcher said of his familial support system. “But I learned a lot outside of the family, interacting with different people, and unfortunately, in society, people with disabilities are looked at as being different. I dealt with those struggles, and I still deal with those struggles.”

Rather than allowing his disability to dominate the day-to-day, Kutcher made it his mission to view life as an opportunity. He began to seek out speaking engagements where he could share his story and started working with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.

By educating as many people on the disability as he can and advocating for the importance of organ donations, he is opening people’s minds and encouraging others who suffer from cerebral palsy to share their stories as well.

“My goal isn’t to reach everyone,” Kutcher shared. “If I can touch one person, that’s my goal. If I touch many, that’s awesome. My goal is just to inspire and impact lives and invoke change by teaching people about the importance of organ donation. If you look at my life, I’ve done a lot in the last 30 years. I’ve been able to inspire people, I’ve been a productive member of my community, and I have children who wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the generosity of someone else.”

Kutcher has developed the mindset that everyone has a disability of one type or another, but prefers to call them “diffabilities,” a term he has trademarked. Rather than holding onto a prefix with a negative connotation, he focuses on the fact that we all have positive abilities, despite the fact that they may differ.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Mandy Harvey: A Voice for Change

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By Brady Rhoades

Mandy Harvey, who landed in the nation’s living rooms in 2017 with exquisite singing on America’s Got Talent, recently released her fifth album.

Paper Cuts is a collection of stories and lessons learned,” Harvey said in an interview with DIVERSEability Magazine. “The album took form after my song ‘Masterpiece’ was created. It is about embracing who you are and the entire journey that’s brought you to where you are now. Each part is worth celebrating, even the parts that have been the hardest.”

It’s vital to Harvey, who is deaf, that people who live in worlds with dimmed or no sound be able to experience Cuts, which was independently funded, as well as all of her music.

Paper Cuts is a labor of love that at the end of the day, I will never be able to hear,” said the 34-year-old. “I very much want to have an opportunity to experience this album along with the entire deaf and hard of hearing community. I teamed up with Voya Financial to make sure that we could increase accessibility by having an ASL video for each song performed on the album by deaf performers.

Mandy Harvey performing at NFL game with Color Guard behind her
Mandy Harvey performing at NFL game. Photo courtesy of Mandy Harvey.

There are several music videos that are visual representations of the songs that were captioned in multiple languages, too… This project has been an amazing continuation of our ongoing collaboration to increase awareness of the need for greater disability inclusion. We want to start conversations about inclusion, as well as spread the important messages of these songs, which include mental health awareness and celebrating being unique.” While many companies have pledged to be more inclusive and diversity-minded, it’s a work-in-progress.

“I dream of both venues and events that have interpreters and access to various means of communication,” Harvey said. “The opportunity to offer art in multiple forms to people and places that typically wouldn’t have access to it. There are so many ways to be more inclusive, but it has to be a thoughtful choice and not just wishing things were better.”
There are encouraging signs.

“I have noticed more ASL inclusion, like this past Super Bowl during the national anthem, for example, and there are a lot more businesses on all sides that are letting their employees know that it’s OK to be different or need different tools,” she said. “More people are feeling like they have the ability to share their barriers with less fear of discrimination, too. We still have a long way to go, but we live in a world where we benefit immensely from diverse communities.”
As for employers recruiting and retaining employees with disabilities, Harvey said it starts at the top.

Mandy Harvey playing guitar in a learn to play guitar store
Photo courtesy of Mandy Harvey.

“Having CEOs and executives who see the value of implementing a diverse hiring practice is important. There are a lot of incredible people who have so much to give, but there is a very real fear of discrimination.”

Harvey, who was born in Ohio before moving to St. Cloud, Fla., then Colorado, suffered hearing problems as a child and underwent several surgeries to try to correct them. She sang throughout her childhood, and her talent was recognized at Longmont High School, from which she graduated in 2006.

She gradually lost her hearing as a result of the connective tissues disorder Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. While majoring in vocal music education at Colorado State University, she became totally deaf and left the university.

It wasn’t looking good, and she was feeling low. But with the aid of visual tuners, she learned how to find the correct pitches when singing. In 2008, she met jazz pianist Mark Sloniker at Jay’s Bistro in Fort Collins, Colo., where she began performing regularly. She later performed at Dazzle Jazz Lounge in Denver and recorded three studio jazz albums: Smile, After You’ve Gone and All of Me. She also released Nice To Meet You before this year’s Paper Cuts. Jazz Times described her singing as “rich and captivating.”

Mandy Harvey hugging Marlee Matlin
Mandy Harvey with Marlee Matlin. Photo credit: Noam Galai.

In 2011, Harvey won VSA’s International Young Soloist Award, and she performed at the Kennedy Center.

In 2017, Harvey — who likes to bake bread, rollerblade and do CrossFit in her private time — appeared on season 12 of America’s Got Talent, where judge Simon Cowell was visibly blown away when she performed an original song using a ukulele. She finished fourth.

The same year as her America’s Got Talent appearance, she published a memoir with co-author Mark Atteberry titled, Sensing the Rhythm: Finding My Voice in a World Without Sound.

Harvey is an ambassador for the nonprofit organization No Barriers, which helps disabled people overcome obstacles.
Asked what’s in the works for the future, the star said, “My goodness! There are so many things I am working on. As far as music goes, I have a holiday EP that I would like to release this year. I have several albums worth of songs in my head that I need to get out, too.”

Yes, those songs are imprinted on her brain. She has said that most of what she sang and heard before going deaf is “locked and loaded” in her head, and so are current and future songs.

Harvey writes her own lyrics about all manner of things. Here are some lines from a song called “Masterpiece,” which is on the Cuts album:
When I feel like I’m all broken pieces
That I wish I could just throw away
Look for glue I can put in between them
Back in place, back in place

‘Cause my heart is way up on the ceiling
And my mind took a boat, sailed away
But I still got my angels and demons
Used up string, can of paint

And more from “Bought Myself Roses,” on the same album:
I’ve been flying on a feeling
Breaking through the ceiling
This could become
Heaven, I could let myself in
Look in all directions it’s already done

Mandy Harvey visiting young girl and showing her how to play a guitar
Lily (L), as part of Voya Financial’s Invest in Something Special campaign aimed to help Special Olympics athletes achieve their goals beyond sport, got a surprise visit from her hero, Mandy Harvey. Courtesy of ABC Denver 7 Noam Galai.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 37 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing. Millions of others live with hearing disorders such as tinnitus. There have been extraordinary medical and technical advances that are helping those with hearing issues. That includes about 800,000 cochlear implants worldwide and 60,000 in the U.S. However, the statistics are dubious barometers because of evolving criteria for who qualifies as deaf or hard of hearing.

There are thousands, maybe millions, who want to become allies to the deaf and hard of hearing community, which, of course, is good news. The tough news is that many, if not most, are hesitant for a number of reasons. Harvey has a keep-it-simple tip that can serve as a takeaway for those serious about doing their part.

“Every person’s journey is different. You can never assume you know best how to help someone. The only way to know how best to be an advocate is to start a conversation with that individual. As people, we need to understand that we judge quickly, and that is something we have the power to change.”

‘The Simpsons’ will feature a deaf actor and American Sign Language for the first time

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The episode features Lisa Simpson meeting the son of her idol, the late musician Bleeding Gums Murphy.

By Faith Karimi, CNN

“The Simpsons” will feature a deaf actor on Sunday for the first time in its 33-year history.

Even though the characters in the show have only four fingers, they’ll use American Sign Language in the groundbreaking episode. And no, the episode was not written after “CODA,” the movie about the hearing daughter of two deaf parents, won best picture at the Oscars last month. “It’s very hard to do a ‘first’ after 722 episodes. But I couldn’t be more excited about this one,” executive producer Al Jean said. The episode is titled “The Sound of Bleeding Gums.” It centers on Lisa Simpson, who finds out that her role model and favorite musician, the late saxophonist Bleeding Gums Murphy, has a son who’s deaf and needs a cochlear implant. Lisa gets a little too carried away trying to help the son, Monk Murphy. Bleeding Gums Murphy died in season 6. The episode’s storyline is loosely based on the life of Loni Steele Sosthand, its main writer.

“Loni pitched making the son of Bleeding Gums Murphy a man who was born deaf and could never hear his father’s music,” Jean told CNN.

Sosthand told CNN that the show’s producers consulted two ASL specialists regarding the signs that characters make in the episode. The sign language specialists reviewed animatics — rough versions of the show’s visuals — to make sure that despite the characters’ missing fingers, the meaning of the words was conveyed correctly.
Sosthand said the episode was personal for her and a labor of love. Her brother, Eli, is hearing impaired in a family that loves jazz music.

“Having a brother, who is just a year older, who was born deaf, really shaped who I am as a person. So it is a story not just close to my heart, but to my identity,” she said.
“There are many autobiographical themes in the episode regarding the tension between a love of music and loved ones who are deaf — themes also present in “CODA,” but very much from my own life,” she added.

Deaf actor John Autry II, whose credits include “Glee” and “No Ordinary Family,” plays Monk. In a statement, he called the role “life-changing” for him.
“It’s about hard of hearing and hearing characters coming together,” he said. “It’s a part of history.”

The episode will also feature three kids — Ian Mayorga, Kaylee Arellano and Hazel Lopez — from No Limits, a nonprofit devoted to deaf children. Watching them record “Happy Talk,” a song from the musical “South Pacific” and featured at the end of the episode, was emotional for Sosthand.

“The song says, ‘If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true.’ While watching them record, I just had tears in my eyes the whole time, realizing this is a dream come true for all of us,” she said.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Selena Gomez Says Being Diagnosed As Bipolar Was ‘Freeing’

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Selena Gomez smiling at the camera at a red carpet event

By , The Cut

Since Selena Gomez revealed her bipolar diagnosis in 2020, she’s been selective about what she makes public and what she keeps to herself. In fact, she’s been much more selective with her press appearances in general. She even skipped the Grammys on Sunday, despite earning her very first nomination. But on Monday, April 4, Gomez spoke about being diagnosed as bipolar and how she’s been taking care of her mental health since. (Hint: It involves the World Wide Web and a brand-new company.)

Gomez gave a rare interview on Monday to announce the launch of Wondermind, her new multimedia company focused on mental health. “I really want people to be understood and seen and heard,” she told Good Morning America of her goals for the company. Co-founded by her mother, Mandy Teefey, and Daniella Pierson, the group aims to create an “inclusive, fun, and easy place where people can come together.” Wondermind is meant to provide people with tools to work on their “mental fitness,” which will include journaling exercises, podcasts, and resources. For the singer and actor, one of those tools has been stepping away from the spotlight a bit, which included taking a four-year break from the internet. “I haven’t been on the internet in four and a half years,” she admitted. (Shout out to her social-media people keeping her Instagram alive!) Another tool: knowing her diagnosis. “It was really freeing to have the information,” she said. “It made me really happy because I started to have a relationship with myself, and I think that’s the best part.”

The actor went public with her diagnosis after years of speaking out about her depression and anxiety. “After years of going through a lot of different things, I realized that I was bipolar,” she said during an appearance on Miley Cyrus’ former Instagram Live show, Bright Minded. One year later, she told Elle that finally receiving a diagnosis felt like “a huge weight lifted off me.” She explained, “I could take a deep breath and go, ‘Okay, that explains so much.’”

Click here to read the full article on The Cut.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. Business Beyond Barriers Conference + Expo
    July 14, 2022
  4. Disability:IN Annual Conference
    July 18, 2022 - July 21, 2022
  5. The Arc and NCE Summer Leadership Institute
    July 18, 2022 - July 20, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. Business Beyond Barriers Conference + Expo
    July 14, 2022
  4. Disability:IN Annual Conference
    July 18, 2022 - July 21, 2022
  5. The Arc and NCE Summer Leadership Institute
    July 18, 2022 - July 20, 2022