The show “Switched at Birth” has finally given the hearing impaired community an insightful representation to what their world is like. Television has come a long was in the last 60 years since “Leave it to Beaver.” Back then anyone who isn’t picture perfect would have no chance at being fairly represented on television, and time hasn’t done much to help the cause for equality since. However, the new show “Switched at Birth” has finally given the deaf community their fair due.
The basic premise of the show is about two teen-aged girls switched at birth in the hospital, who have recently discovered the truth about their identity and are learning to come to terms with it. Bay is a dark featured, overly dramatic, teen with a wealthy upbringing. Daphne is fair skinned, blue-eyed, sweet mannered teen with a humble Latino background who is also hearing impaired.
Once the truth about each girl’s identity comes out through a science class DNA test, both families come together to try and comprehend and embrace the situation. Both parents are weary of each other and their estranged offspring at first; however, curiosity and empathy soon bond everyone.
It is quite intriguing and refreshing to see a proper representation of how the deaf community attempts to assimilate and function in a world they must work twice as hard in. For example, in order to know the doorbell or phone is activated, a visual light cue is set off. However, the strain of living without all of your senses in this chaotic world is shown with Daphne many times over. She enjoys cooking and takes culinary lessons at Bay’s school. In one session she almost starts a fire with a deep fryer because she can’t hear the timer go off.
Not only does Daphne have to rely on visual cues for everyday life, but in communication as well. She attends a specialized school for the hearing impaired where she is surrounded by everyone communicating through ASL (American Sign Language), but once she meets her new family they have difficulty understanding each other verbally and culturally. Her new wealthy family is hesitant to learn ASL at first and even suggest a cochlear implant (an electronic device implanted in the brain to restore some sense of sound) instead of trying to accommodate Daphne.
After some aggressive urging from Regina, Daphne’s mother, her birth parents and the rest of the family see that they must attempt to accommodate her in order to truly understand her perspective and appreciate her for the person she has had to fight to become. It is a common misconception that the hearing impaired individuals are unintelligent in some way because they cannot communicate as easily as the hearing. This show demonstrates the opposite; that hearing impaired individuals have to work twice as hard in order to communicate and function in a world that doesn’t cater to them. In turn, this show is a wonderful representation of how the hearing impaired individuals are not only intelligent and as capable as the rest of the world, but hard working souls as well.
“Switched at Birth” not only shows a fair and insightful view of the hearing impaired community and their struggles and successes, but touches on several other social and family issues as well. If anyone is looking for something heartfelt, dramatic and intriguing this show is the answer.