In a country where 15% of its adult population (37.5 million) has some kind of hearing problem, the hearing impaired community in the United States continues to be overlooked. The performance of artist Christine Sun Kim during the Super Bowl last weekend was proof of this.
While the audience watched Yolanda Adams and Demi Lovato sing on the 50-yard line at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Kim sang on the 40 — in American Sign Language — the national anthem and “America the Beautiful.”
According to the singer, who described herself as “a child of immigrants, a grandchild of refugees, a deaf woman of color, an artist and a mother,” people watching the event through the screen “got a seriously truncated version.”
“While Fox Sports announced the signed performance of the two songs on Twitter, it did not actually show it,” said the artist in an op-ed for the New York Times. “On the television broadcast, I was visible for only a few seconds. On what was supposed to be a ‘bonus feed’ dedicated to my full performance on the Fox Sports website, the cameras cut away to show close-ups of the players roughly midway through each song.”
Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, discrimination against people with disabilities has been prohibited nationwide, regardless of the area in which it occurs. Kim acknowledges that through the passage of the Act, deaf people “have been afforded the rights and access that have allowed me to live a life on par with my fellow citizens.”
In 2008, with the ADA Amendments Act, a number of significant changes were made to the legal language surrounding the definition of “disability,” further expanding protections to this community.
Subsequently, in 2010 the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (HCAA) was signed into law, requiring that “unedited, full-length programs shown on TV with captions must also be captioned when they are made available online, with more requirements to be phased in at later dates,” as explained by the Washington Times at the time.
However, as was evident on Sunday, this legal framework does not fully apply in practice.
Despite the ground gained in recent years in the broadcasting of NFL events, the accessibility problem that became apparent on Sunday is a symptom of a much larger problem.
That’s why, after reflecting on the importance of performance in public spaces, Kim accepted the challenge of performing the National Anthem during the event, assuring that: “Our rights can easily disappear if we do not continue to show up in places like the Super Bowl.”
You can watch Kim’s full, stunning performance of the National Anthem here.