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Television: Mainstream Programming

  • By: Debbie B. Golos
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

Deaf characters have been on mainstream television since the 1950s. During the early years (1950s to 1970s), deaf characters were primarily played by hearing actors and frequently portrayed as mentally ill and often as also mute. In the late 1960s, the first deaf actors were given roles on mainstream programs, and this continued to grow over the years. Beginning in the 1970s, Deaf actors began portraying deaf characters in single episodes of programs and appearing in recurring episodes. More recently, Deaf actors have also had starring roles on television programs.

On television, deaf characters primarily have communicated by being expert lipreaders and/or expert speakers. While more and more deaf characters now use American Sign Language (ASL), they nearly always also speak. Recurring themes have included either ...

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