As More Deaf People Are Seen on TV, Others Want to Be Heard

While filming the reality series “Deaf U,” Rodney Burford wasn’t too focused on any effect he and his cochlear implants would have on viewers. “In my own mind I was like, ‘Yo, I’m really on Netflix,’” said the 22-year-old cast member of the show, which zooms in on a group of students at Gallaudet University, the nation’s only liberal arts university devoted to deaf people.

Things changed after the show debuted last fall. Parents of cochlear-implant users started reaching out to say how seeing Burford on the screen had made an impact on their children. “So I would say, no question, I’m proud,” he said in an interview. “I am very proud.”

Many deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals have welcomed the increase in visibility that deafness and hearing loss have enjoyed on TV lately. The current season of “The Bachelor,” on ABC, features Abigail Heringer, who is believed to be the first deaf contestant and cochlear-implant wearer on the show; the actress Angel Theory, who is hard of hearing, currently stars on “Kinderfänger” on Facebook Watch and plays Kelly, a character with hearing loss, on AMC’s “The Walking Dead”; and Disney+ has announced that a Hawkeye series in development would