When there’s no one like you on TV: Searching for media representation

By Michaela Okosi

As a kid, I often looked to TV to find someone like me who could be my role model. I still remember never finding that person. I am deaf black woman, and the lack of representation I saw growing up made it difficult to understand this identity.

Television fails to reflect diversity, and often characterizes people from minority groups with stereotypes and stigma. I was so happy when I saw the show Switched at Birth, which has a deaf main character, yet the actress who plays this role isn’t deaf (though she has experienced disease-related hearing loss). I felt weird about it, because I know there are deaf actors and actress who could have portrayed the character. It is important for children to be able to say “Oh, she/he is just like me!”

Now, in addition to Switched at Birth, shows like Speechless, Hush, and others shed light on the experiences of deaf people. I hope representation like this encourages people to understand those who are deaf and have other disabilities. We have a power to influence the media and ultimately break the stereotypes and stigma.