Media representation has tremendous power in shaping society’s perception of any community, including the deaf and hard of hearing community. Too often media representations lack authenticity and present a distorted view of the deaf and hard of hearing community, and this misrepresentation deprives the public of an accurate understanding of a community that is rich in culture and language. The NAD asserts that all media coverage of deaf and hard of hearing individuals or the deaf and hard of hearing community should consist of authentic and first-hand representation, based on the adage: “Nothing about us without us.”
Historically, the media has misrepresented deaf people as more isolated, disabled, or dependent than the rest of the population. The truth is that the deaf and hard of hearing community is a linguistic and cultural minority with lives full of beautiful and rich traditions. Members of its community also are diverse on many levels including race, gender, orientation, religion, disability, and more. The deaf and hard of hearing community uses a wide variety of communication means, but many use American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary language.
Media portrayals of deaf and hard of hearing individuals or the deaf and hard of hearing community should recognize their cultural differences rather than focus on medical pathology and any need to “fix” or “cure” their being deaf or hard of hearing. Many deaf and hard of hearing individuals do not feel they need to be “fixed” through technology or therapy. When a media professional chooses to do a story involving deaf or hard of hearing individuals or community, care must be taken to include the first-hand viewpoints of members of the deaf and hard of hearing community regardless of whether the story is based on medical, legal, social, cultural or other angles. The NAD recommends all media outlets to comply with the following rules for authentic, first-hand coverage of deaf and hard of hearing individuals or community, although these rules are in no way intended to be exhaustive:
1. The media must consider making itself accessible and this should be a priority at all levels. For any in person interviews, the media professional should consult with the deaf or hard of hearing person to determine what the optimal means of communication is, such as a professional sign language interpreter. When a sign language interpreter is used, the interpreter is used for the benefit of both the media professional and the deaf or hard of hearing person, and should not be characterized as something that the deaf or hard of hearing person uses or depends on exclusively. ASL is a language with its own grammar, rules, and structure, and is not a signed form of English. Because the interpreter offers an English approximation of what is being said in ASL, the media professional should always verify all quotes or paraphrased comments with the deaf or hard of hearing individual directly prior to dissemination of the article or video.
2. All terminology used to describe deaf and hard of hearing people should be appropriate and up to date. Use the terms “deaf,” “hard of hearing,” “deaf or hard of hearing,” or “deaf and hard of hearing.” The terms “deaf-mute,” “hearing impaired,” and “hearing disabled” are outdated and inaccurate. These offensive terms make assumptions about the abilities of the person, rather than provide an actual description of the person.
3. Descriptions of deaf and hard of hearing individuals should be based on actual assessments of their personalities just like anyone else. No media outlet should use patronizing terms such as “overcoming,” “inspiring,” “brave,” “courageous,” “noble,” or “special.” The media should also avoid stereotypical negative terms, such as “afflicted with,” “victim of,” or “suffering from” which convey a falsely inferior image of being deaf or hard of hearing.
4. The media should focus on the first-hand response, input, or opinion of deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and not well-meaning individuals who purport to speak on our behalf. There is a long history of such well-meaning individuals, including interpreters, advocates, educators, and other supporters of the deaf and hard of hearing community who make public statements on behalf of the community. As is true for any other community, deaf and hard of hearing people should represent themselves and their own experiences. All representations should reflect and respect the deaf or hard of hearing person’s vantage perspective. Therefore, if the media is to interview someone about anything involving any part of the deaf and hard of hearing community whether direct or indirect, the interviewee should be deaf or hard of hearing.
5. Deaf and hard of hearing people, like many others, have many forms of identify that are independent of being deaf or hard of hearing, including but not limited to: culture, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, and/or sexual identity. The NAD asks all media outlets to involve the viewpoints of deaf and hard of hearing individuals that represent the impacted segment of the community. For example, any story about deaf and hard of hearing people in the African-American community should include the input and views of an African-American deaf or hard of hearing person. One deaf or hard of hearing person’s experience is usually not the same as the experiences of other deaf hard of hearing people.
6. All online and broadcast media should be made available and accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people. Online and broadcast videos should be captioned, transcripts of radio shows should be provided, and media events should be interpreted as well as captioned. All videos, especially those about the deaf and hard of hearing community itself, should always be captioned. 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people live in the USA, and making this media accessible is not only legally mandated but also significantly increases viewership possibilities.
The NAD asks all media outlets to present authentic first-hand representation of the deaf community and its members as it would for any other culture. By eliminating language barriers, media outlets will allow society to see deaf people as they truly are — a beautiful, intricate, and complex community that has its own culture, perspectives, and customs, just like any other community.
 In this position statement, the term “media” includes journalistic outlets such as newspapers, magazines, e-newsletters, news shows (locally and nationally), magazines, and on television. “Media” also includes digital media, ranging from social media to digital reports.
 The use of “deaf and hard of hearing” is intended to represent the entirety of the community including those who are deaf, hard of hearing, DeafBlind, late-deafened, have other types of hearing losses, or have additional disabilities.