Mr. Maxey, 33, started posting online because, at the time, he didn’t see any Black people on the internet signing, especially doing interpretations of songs he liked by artists such as J. Cole, Mac Miller and Big Sean. “I was trying to expose the deaf community to my culture as a Black man from the South,” he said.
Interpreters at highly visible events, like music festivals, get a disproportionate amount of the attention. Ms. Sutton wants people to know that her interpretations are more than just TikTok dances. “Some hearing people misunderstand, saying, ‘Oh, she’s a deaf dancer,’” she said. “No, I’m interpreting. I’m providing full access, which, if I’m just standing there, that’s not full access.”
At the same time, social media has been helpful in amplifying the perspectives of deaf people. “One of the amazing things with TikTok and Instagram is that deaf content creators do have a place where they can create their own space and put out their content,” Ms. Kurdi said. “Years ago, there wasn’t as much of a platform or place where they could put up their content, and now there is.”
And to provide even fuller access, concert and event organizers can hire hearing interpreters who can hear what is being said and pass it along to deaf interpreters to allow for “something that’s more culturally and linguistically accurate for the audience at large,” Ms. Burton said.
After this viral moment, Black and deaf content creators hope to see the spotlight on themselves next time, and at least have this be an opportunity for people to learn more about accessibility. “I want people to think of what the deaf community goes through every day,” Ms. Sutton said. “Learn A.S.L. to provide access, not so you can do a song that goes viral.”