Most people know Marlee Matlin from her role as Melody Bledsoe on the super-popular TV show Switched at Birth. On the show, she helps Regina learn ASL so she can communicate with Daphne, who is deaf. It’s a great role for Matlin, because she helped the real life Deaf community in a way not many people know about. She helped get closed captions put on streaming videos, like those from Netflix and Amazon!
Matlin first realized the need for the streaming captions when she wanted to show the movie The Wizard of Oz to her children. Matlin’s first acting role when she was a little girl was playing Dorothy on the stage, and so the movie was important to her. But when the movie started streaming through her computer, she discovered there were no closed captions. She was disappointed, and decided then and there to convince the companies to caption their streaming media.
Matlin worked hard to prove to the companies that streaming captions were important. She sent a tweet asking people to write into the companies asking for the captions, and that one tweet set the change in motion. Matlin then started working with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). Together, they sent a letter to Congress asking for the closed captions, and even got the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) involved. Now, all sites that stream have to offer closed captioning.
Matlin did not stop there, though. She wants to help make sure the captions are accurate (say the right thing), so she started working with a website called Viki. This website has users around the world who are putting closed captions on videos in more than 200 different languages!
Now, Marlee Matlin is getting ready to go to Broadway to perform in the play Spring Awakening with the Deaf West Theater. And even on the stage, she is helping to break communication barriers. The play will be performed in English and American Sign Language at the same time, so everyone—Deaf and hearing alike—can enjoy the show!