Nyle DiMarco and AG Bell and ASL




He’s 26 years old and he is apparently more than just arm candy. Nyle DiMarco is making a name for himself and people are “listening” to what he has to say.

Gallaudet Graduate , America’s Next Top Model, Dancing With The Stars, Amazing blue eyes…

Who wants to be the first to call him ‘disabled’ or ‘handicapped’ ?  Not me!

Nyle has leveraged his success and has become an ambassador for the Deaf community in many ways, including advocating against language deprivation of Deaf children.  He became a spokesperson for LEAD-K (Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids) and completed a video about the passing of California Senate Bill 210:

To the surprise of many hearing fans, Nyle does not use his voice, nor does he have any assistive listening devices (hearing aids or cochlear implants).

Nyle has consistently advocated for the use of ASL for deaf children.  He has never indicated that speech is a bad thing, just that it was not something that worked for him.

On April 1, 2016, the President of AG Bell published an open letter on their website:

The letter was titled “Dispelling Myths about Deafness.”  While it initially praised Nyle’s success, the letter then went on to make a number of claims that are not backed by research – but that do feed into the marketing message of the association and their sponsors.

Examples of false claims:

  • the use of ASL is declining
  • when technology intervention (i.e. hearing aids and cochlear implants) is performed early enough, children develop language at the same rate as their hearing peers

And one of the most egregious statements of all:
“Recent studies show that children who solely utilize listening and spoken language, rather than a combination of this with ASL, demonstrate better listening and spoken language skills than do children who follow a combination approach, and that these children frequently develop expressive and receptive language test scores similar to their typical hearing peers.”

There are other inaccurate claims within the letter.


Studies to support their claims were not cited.  The AG Bell organization’s sole focus is on “hearing and speaking” instead of language acquisition for Deaf children.

NAD’s response:  (appropriate references cited)

“Numerous studies show that ASL actually enhances spoken language and auditory comprehension, even with cochlear implant users.  In addition, sign language has been shown to improve academic performance.  In fact, an article was recently published in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ journal outlining the clear benefits of learning sign language over an oral-only approach for any babies identified as deaf or hard of hearing.”

National Black Deaf Advocates’ response:

“If 90% of deaf children with hearing parents are speaking the Spoken English language in their households, what percent of these children are comfortably or fluently speaking the Spoken English language and succeeding vocally, academically, intellectually, socially, emotionally, psychologically and mentally?”

Dr. Peter Hauser, Clinical Neuropsychologist, directly addressed AG Bell’s claims of the benefits of a CI-only approach:

“The majority of deaf children with cochlear implants do not achieve “listening and spoken language” skills similar to hearing peers (e.g., Lund, 2015). Children with cochlear implants who learn a sign language actually develop better speech skills than those who do not learn a sign language (e.g., Davidson et al., 2014;Hassanzadeh, 2012).”

…and one of the strongest responses…

Dr. Octavian Robinson, Ph.D., faculty member in the Department of ASL and Deaf Studies at the College of the Holy Cross, addressed the underlying eugenical roots of the AG Bell organization:

“The A.G. Bell organization continues to promote an ideology steeped in 19th century pseudoscience and xenophobia. This pseudoscience and xenophobia were driven by fear of otherness. In response to socioeconomic tumult and massive immigration, “scientists” like Bell turned to eugenics to scientifically justify the marginalization and dehumanization of non-white people, Catholics, Jews, women, the disabled and the deaf. Eugenics shaped Bell’s approach to teaching deaf children, affirming false scientific ideas about race, ethnicity, gender, and disabilities. Eugenics also drove Nazi Germany’s genocide of Jews, ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, and many others in the Holocaust.”

So the controversy continues while many deaf individuals prove daily that their success is not contingent upon pre-conceived ideas and a one-size-fits-all approach.  They don’t have to become “almost hearing” to break through and achieve their personal goals.

But seriously…….those eyes…….






, , , , , , , , , ,

About Evelyn

Evelyn Hunter is a SODA with years of experiential study in Deaf Culture. She attended Gallaudet University to immerse herself in this unique deaf world while working for the University and studying sign language to hone her skills. Evelyn has served in training, relationship sales, and marketing -- always seeking to expand awareness of Deaf Culture and the unique challenges the deaf face on a daily basis. The Sign Language Company has recently established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a website with a blog, as Evelyn coordinates the marketing and outreach efforts for the agency. Her goal is to attract new clients seeking exceptional service, while maintaining optimal relationships with clients who have selected The Sign Language Company for over 20 years.

View all posts by Evelyn

Connect with Us

Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply