How This Oscar-Winning Film Raised Awareness For The Deaf Community

CODA, the heartwarming tale that follows the path of the only hearing member of a deaf family, won the Oscar for Best Picture at this year's 94th Academy Awards. This is the first time that a film with a cast made up of mostly deaf people nabbed the coveted Best Picture honor. In recognition and support, those in attendance at The Dolby Theatre silently waved hands in lieu of clapping their applause (via U.S. News & World Report).

Hearing children of deaf parents and deaf people who were watching the Oscars from afar reacted with joy, seeing the win as a long overdue sign of acceptance of the deaf community. Freelance videographer and web developer, William Millios, who is deaf, said that the film showed how deaf people were just like everyone else, hardworking and trying to make their way in the world, and are not to be pitied, according to U.S. News & World Report. Robert B. Weinstock, a spokeman for Gallaudet University, which serves students who are deaf and hard of hearing and has ties to the film, said he hoped that this exposure would be a catalyst for more employment opportunities in the performing arts for the deaf population.

What does "CODA" mean?

CODA is an acronym that stands for "children of deaf adults." Millie Brother coined the term while doing research as a graduate student at Gallaudet University. As one of the 90% of hearing children born to deaf parents, Brother, who has first-hand knowledge of what it is like being stuck in between the deaf and hearing worlds, eventually founded the organization, CODA, which began as a grassroots group in 1983. Today, CODA International is an organization with a global reach, crossing geographical and cultural boundaries and supporting its mission through conferences, retreats, meetings, scholarships, publications, and camp experiences for young CODAs aged 18 and under, according to CODA International.

Besides winning Best Picture, "CODA" won two other Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor, which went to Troy Kotsur, who is now the first male deaf actor to win an Academy Award. His costar, Marlee Matlin was the first deaf actress to ever win an Oscar, in 1987, for her role in "Children of a Lesser God." Katsur signed his acceptance speech, thanking all the deaf theatre companies for supporting him as he honed his craft. Kotsur also acknowledged his father, who he described as his hero, and dedicated his Oscar to his deaf community (per CNN).