Super Bowl XLVIII a Platform for Deaf Awareness

With a deaf player and a dedicated camera showing an American Sign Language performance of the “Star Spangled Banner,” Super Bowl XLVIII will bring attention to deaf awareness perhaps more than Any Super Bowl before.

Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman, the first deaf offensive player in the NFL and only the third overall, made national headlines recently when his Duracell ad debuted. The ad, titled “Trust Your Power” has over 12 million views on YouTube. Following the ad, “Good Morning America” did a story on Coleman, in which he surprised a deaf fan with tickets to the Super Bowl and his Twitter response to a letter that same fan wrote also gave him national headlines.

It is not clear if Coleman will see any touches (he didn’t have a catch or a run in the Seahawks previous game,) but he has certainly touched the hearts of many people around the world.

“The awareness for hearing loss and the hearing loss community is at a whole other level because of what that Duracell add provided,” Coleman said Tuesday during media day. “That’s what I wanted to do; I wanted to spread awareness.”

But Coleman’s story isn’t the only topic that could put deaf awareness in the spotlight. Viewers of Super Bowl XLVIII will see the “Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” performed in ASL by deaf actress Amber Zion. Unlike previous years, there will be a dedicated camera on the performance, so that people who are deaf can enjoy it.

The entire performance will be shown online and on the iPad app. To watch it online, visit http://www.foxsports.com/superbowl and to watch on the iPad, download the Fox Sports Go app. Viewers on TV will get a glimpse of Zion’s performance, as Zion will be singing near opera singer Renée Fleming.

“To see a person signing the “Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” at the Super Bowl encourages a sense of pride and accomplishment for the deaf and hard of hearing community. Imagine what it does for a young six-year-old-girl who watches someone, deaf like her, performing on live TV,” said National Association of the Deaf CEO Howard Rosenblum. “This incredible opportunity is just a glimpse of the NAD’s vision which is that the language, culture, and heritage of deaf and hard of hearing Americans will be acknowledged and respected.”

Zion, who made a guest appearance on “CSI,” said she is honored to perform not only for the deaf community, but for people who don’t know ASL. In the video below, Zion is seen practicing with actor John Maucere, who performed last year. Descriptive text of the audio can be found here.

Fox says the game and all the commercials will be captioned. With over 100 million people expected to tune in, the game could be a way to jump-start a national conversation about deaf awareness.

“The Super Bowl is a national event and we want to make it as accessible as possible,” said Fox Sports spokesman Lou D’Ermilio. “It will remind everyone that we are all in this together.”

Coleman sees the Super Bowl as a platform that can be used to teach everyone something about each other.

“The fact that they (sign the “national Anthem”) at every big event you have, basically when people see that there’s more awareness,” Coleman told a crowd of media members. “And that’s really what that commercial was about was spreading the awareness that hearing is a problem in the United States and the world. And we’ve just got to educate everybody about it to help us so that we can help you, too. Because there are some things you guys can learn from us, too.”

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