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Oscars criticised for Coda speeches for ASL interpreter only

It was a big night for the Coda cast and crew after the film took home best picture at the Oscars.

However, the Academy has been criticised for only having an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter on stage during Coda’s acceptance speech, and no one else’s. Some viewers assumed the cast brought their own interpreters.

The film tells the story of Coda (Child of Deaf Adults) Ruby, who is the only hearing member of a deaf family trying to keep their fishing business afloat.

When their business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her passion for singing and her fear of abandoning her parents. Several deaf actors star in lead roles.

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As well as the film taking home the highly-coveted best picture award, Troy Kotsur bagged the trophy for best supporting actor, with Minari’s Yuh-jung Youn using sign language to announce him as the winner before holding his trophy while he signed his acceptance speech.

As the actor did so, the star-studded audience gave him a standing ovation and signed out applause.

When the cast took to the stage at the 94th Academy Awards to deliver their acceptance speech for best picture, an interpreter joined them to translate their emotional words into signing, but thousands of viewers have branded it ‘performative.’

One person tweeted: ‘Having an ASL interpreter only for the speeches related to Coda as if deaf people who watch the Oscars will ONLY be interested in those speeches is,’ followed by an emoji showing discomfort.

Many agreed, calling for interpreters to be ‘standard protocol’ at all live events.

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Others questioned the Academy’s ‘thought process’ behind the decision, saying they were ‘almost’ there, but missed the mark.

One frustrated viewer tweeted: ‘This is such a frequent thing. it’s done under a guise of accessibility + inclusivity, when in actuality they are doing far below the bare minimum and expecting to be commended for doing anything at all. we are forced to be grateful cause it’s ‘better than nothing’ and that sucks.’

‘I wish they had an ASL interpreter on screen throughout the #Oscars as they are going on, especially when they have honoured 2 deaf winners. These award shows need to be more accessible,’ said another.

When some Twitter users pointed out that the interpreter was probably for the benefit of the live audience and viewers at home could use subtitles, people were quick to point out that ‘a lot of closed captioning either leaves words and/or sentences out’ or just adds ‘incorrect words’ completely.

One viewer said subtitles can be ‘terrible,’ while another replied: ‘If live captioning falls too far behind, things get skipped in order to catch up. I’ve also seen auto captioning be inaccurate to the point where it used a slur when that was not what the video said.’

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The Academy’s official YouTube channel did offer an ASL interpreter throughout the live feed, but this too was criticised, especially as it went down at one point.

One person tweeted: ‘But it’s a different source you have to know exists, and go out of your way to access, instead of it being literally built in to the existing event. It’s like having a wheelchair entrance around the back of the building through an unmarked door, that has a separate carpark.’

‘Folks keep sharing the separate livestream but my point is that it should also be on the screen & someone shouldn’t have to go to a different link for ASL interpretation,’ another wrote.

‘Also, you don’t have to be deaf to advocate for ASL interpreters & increased access at the #Oscars, other award shows & everywhere. We all have a responsibility to combat ableism,’ he added.

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