Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Deaf Gain Goes Prime Time

Identity, Spaces, and Marginalization in ABC Family’s Switched at Birth

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2018), 12, (1), 35–51.

Abstract

Airing from 2011 to 2017 on ABC Family, the drama series Switched at Birth remains one of the best examples of disability representation in recent television history. As the first mainstream television series to incorporate both deaf actors and American Sign Language (ASL), Switched at Birth represents the increasing recognition of Deaf culture in modern media. The drama series, although primarily geared toward a mainstream teenage hearing audience, offers a relatively nuanced exploration of marginalized communities and identities, particularly those in relation to race and disability. The show follows its Deaf protagonist as she navigates her life and relationships from her time at Carlton School for the Deaf as an activist to a mainstream hearing college as a premedical student. In doing so, the show acts a visual yet educational narrative, informing the viewer about the complexities of marginalization and the disabled experience. With its unique narratives and diverse characters, Switched at Birth can be regarded as not only an attempt at greater disability representation in media discourse, but also a Deaf space that fosters inclusion and acceptance of identities that are outside the mainstream.

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Author details

Asif, Saljooq M.