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Nyle DiMarco & ‘What Would You Do?’ Look At Deaf Discrimination

Dancing with the Stars and America’s Next Top Model champ Nyle DiMarco took part in a segment of What Would You Do?, the hidden camera show, which focused on discrimination faced by the deaf community.
Nyle DiMarco on ‘What Would You Do?’

Dancing with the Stars and America’s Next Top Model champ Nyle DiMarco took part in a segment of What Would You Do?, the hidden camera show, which focused on discrimination faced by the deaf community.

DiMarco explained to host John Quiñones that he and his family, who are all deaf, have experienced discrimination while being served in restaurants before.

“Often, waiters are completely petrified and unsure what to do with us,” said DiMarco. “You can see in their eyes their world kind of collapsing as they try and figure out how to deal with us.”

The hidden camera show set out to see how other diners would react to a waiter being rude and refusing to serve a deaf guest (played by deaf actor J.W.) while the cameras rolled. DiMarco also stepped in as the restaurant guest himself.

J.W. on ‘What Would You Do?’

In one scenario, after the ‘waiter’ gets frustrated with J.W., a diner explains that J.W. is deaf. After the waiter tells the guest J.W. should have an interpreter with him, she suggests he could look at the menu where J.W. is pointing.

“That isn’t my job, though,” says the waiter.

The guest gets up from her table, walks to J.W.’s side and reads aloud what he’s pointing to. There – not so hard, huh?

Both J.W. and DiMarco told Quiñones they were happy with how people stepped in to address the waiter but added that things like that don’t happen very often in daily interactions. When one woman called the manager, Nyle said, “She’s doing everything right – this is what we’d love to see more people do.”

J.W. added, “Usually, when this kind of situation happens, people don’t get up and respond – or, it takes quite some time before somebody gets involved.”

See how diners react in the segment below.

In a post-show interview, J.W. offered this advice to Quiñones for interacting with deaf people, “Accept other people for who they are, and learn how to communicate with everybody. The simplest body language, the simplest gestures, will go a long way and have a big impact.”

A few years ago, Chippendales brought Nyle in to be there celebrity guest host (my husband, Michael, is the publicist for the Chipps). It was heartening to see all the Chippendales make an effort to learn some American Sign Language during his tenure at the show.

As J.W. mentions, even the simplest gestures go a long way.

I do have two suggestions I learned from Nyle to help avoid frustrations and communicate with the deaf community.

One simple fix is to pull your phone out and type out a text message, then show it to the deaf person you may be trying to communicate with. They’re deaf, but they can read. It’s an easy approach to overcoming barriers.

Also, Nyle has helped develop The ASL App for your phone, which teaches simple, everyday phrases. Developed, designed and created by Deaf people, you can pick up basics (even in slow motion if you don’t catch it the first time) to help communicate with those who use ASL.

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