In her diverse roles as actress, writer, director, producer, ASL consultant, and intimacy coordinator, Michelle Mary Schaefer is committed to moving forward. After growing up Deaf in a hearing-centric world, navigating through challenging education and life experiences, Schaefer continues to be her authentic self. Using her many talents, Schaefer works tirelessly on her craft while also advocating for authentic representation in entertainment.
Schaefer met virtually with ABILITY’s Marge Plasmier with an ASL interpreter. Schaefer discussed how she fell in love with acting, connected with roles she’s played and how she continues to forge her own path in writing, directing and producing her own work. She also shares her unique experience of being a contestant on the streaming series, “Coming Out for Love,” the first US lesbian dating show.
Editor’s note: So that nothing was lost in live translation, Shaefer assisted with edits as it is important to have the correct voice for all our interviews.
Marge Plasmier: I see that you are an actor, plus director, screenwriter, producer, and many other things. Is it safe to assume that acting is your first love?
Michelle Mary Schaefer: Yes, I am an actor, director, screenwriter, producer, and CEO of Annabelle Louise Productions, to allow myself and my passions to be expanded within the industry; however, my first love is acting. I began writing scripts because my college professor wrote a script and inspired me to tell my own stories. Also, writing scripts empowers me to share my life experiences, and even imaginations in words, which either come alive onstage, onscreen—And some are still waiting for funding to be able to be greenlit. Plus, I find myself writing roles for folks like me, in a life experience as a Deaf person that no hearing person can truly write accurately, which there have been so many mistakes and assumptions in those kinds of stories.
However, I strongly value authentic stories, representation matters, and our voices to be told. I became a director to direct films and theatre, to tell more stories. Lately, I have become a producer in theatre and films to bring authentic stories alive on stage and on screen. I find that doing what you love is truly living, and that is what I’m doing, by working in both theatre and films. I’m always working extremely hard every single day as a screenwriter, producer, director, my own manager, to look for acting opportunities. And what keeps me going is the burning passions within me, along with being persistent. Again, yes, I do truly love acting because it allows me to be another character and bring it out alive, along with its story onstage and onscreen. It’s just pure magic for me that no words can truly express how I feel…
Plasmier: Okay, so let’s go back to acting. How did you get into that? Or how did you come upon it and start being passionate about it?
Schaefer: Okay, well, when I was four years old, I was watching “Children of a Lesser God” which starred Marlee Matlin. I was amazed that she is Deaf, just like me and I knew at that moment I wanted to be an actor just like her. She was my role model, growing up in the world of sounds, surrounded by hearing folks. — I will never forget that day, just full of excitement to see someone like me onscreen, which I knew I had to figure out how to navigate in the world, and the industry.
When I was a kid, I was a “Full House” fan, and I even wrote a letter to Jeff Franklin, the creator of the show, to show interest in being on the show. I even once called Aaron Spelling of “7th Heaven” and Joss Whedon of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on my old TDD (Telecommunication Device for the Deaf) and spoke with their assistants, which led me to fax my headshot and resume. I even faxed my headshot and resume per Aaron Sorkin’s request—Still waiting for him to reply back as it has been ages ago! Good old-days, which clearly shows how determined and persistent I am within the career.
Plasmier: Okay, so at four years old, your parents sat you down in front of “Children of a Lesser God”?
Schaefer: Yes, my parents did allow me to watch “Children of a Lesser God.”
Plasmier: It’s a very intense movie for a four-year-old.
Schaefer: But you have to think about it from the perspective of a Deaf child lost in a hearing world with no Deaf exposure, but Marlee Matlin which made a huge difference even for a four-year-old.
Schaefer: Growing up, I struggled with my Deaf identity as I was lost. I was considered too Deaf for the hearing world and not Deaf enough for the Deaf world and even Deaf Theatre. I was mocked, bullied, and laughed at my entire life. I felt caught between two worlds, which led me to write one of my earliest scripts, “Caught Between Two Worlds,” which did not successfully land in the eyes of the industry, yet. But it could still be an interest, which I would polish them up before we bring these worlds alive onscreen, maybe onstage. Anyway, I did not fully embrace my Deafness until I went to RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) which has opened my world, and eyes which changed me for the best to be a stronger person and allow me to live authentically. Even-though I am a stronger person, living authentically, I still faced barriers in the hearing world with accessibility, being declined the accessibility of interpreters at events, hospitals, interviews, rejected request for preference of qualified interpreters, and on-going issues of captions, lack of captions in film festivals, YouTube, social media, movie theatres, videos, commercials etc. And rejected of career opportunities—As myself, I have been looking for a full-time job since 2012, and only had five interviews since then with thousands of applications. Instead of sitting at home, I write scripts, network, research, look for acting opportunities and form my own production company. I truly believe that attending RIT was a huge turning point within my life and career along with embracing my Deaf identity.
Plasmier: So, as a young person, what interaction did you have with the Deaf community? Did you go to Deaf schools? Were you mainstreamed or did you have more support for ASL?
Schaefer: Remember, I was my parent’s first Deaf person, well daughter, they ever met. They listened to the medical and early childhood intervention, which I had a hearing aid for and began my speech therapy when I was one, with reinforcement of signing. In elementary school, I had hearing teachers (Teachers of Deaf) which spoke and signed at the same time, Sim-Com (simultaneous communication). So, I had some Deaf children in my class, too, and some hearing children in my class. At that time, I was signing exact English, not ASL. Then when I was in middle school, I was so bored in the Deaf education program, not learning anything. I was transferred to the mainstream classroom with an ASL interpreter. That was the big starting point within my education because I did not truly realize I was way behind my peers and I knew I had to work extremely hard to catch up, which I proudly did.
Education is very important to me, and I thank my parents for constantly advocating for my education in the school system. There were so many things that happened in the school system that truly should have never happened, and yes, I do have PTSD. However, every child should always have the right to education, a safe place, and the right to take a class they desire to. — School is supposed to be a nurturing space.— Also, I did have a choice to go to the Deaf school. My parents took me there every year for a day to experience it. I, unfortunately, hated it because I was being bullied all day and did not feel accepted. There were even times I thought maybe I should just go and try. Then I was told that my educational level was too high for my peers, so I stopped visiting the school for the Deaf and remained mainstreamed with an ASL interpreter throughout middle, high and college years.
Plasmier: Is it fair to say that your first experience of the deaf community, like, being kind of encompassed by the deaf community was when you went to RIT?
Schaefer: The first time I truly felt embraced and accepted by the Deaf Community was at RIT. I still miss RIT, even as I graduated 10 years ago, my life is on a different journey— And where I am now is due to every step from “Children of a Lesser God,” film to both worlds, the Deaf and Hearing, to RIT and the industry—I’m blessed to be where I am now and to continue to navigate myself and career journey.
I even went to Gallaudet University’s Soccer Summer Camp. It was hell; the kids bullied me and told me I should have died and said the nastiest stuff ever. Then the coach of Gallaudet’s soccer team asked me if I wanted a full scholarship to Gallaudet and play soccer. I immediately turned it down. Even though I was really good at soccer, I just knew I couldn’t do the bullies. Now, thinking back, there are bullies everyday everywhere even adulthood.— Bullies can be stopped if everyone just truly opens their mind, eyes and heart to accept everyone individually.
Plasmier: When did you have your first acting role? When did you really start getting into it and actually doing the acting?
Schaefer: Well, I was eleven and when I got my first acting job.
Plasmier: Was that stage?
Schaefer: Yes, stage.
Plasmier: So, you’ve done quite a bit of stage.
Schaefer: Yes, as I do both stage and films.
Plasmier: You performed the same role Marlee Matlin performed in “Children of a Lesser God”.
Schaefer: Yes, I was in “Children of a Lesser God” seven times when I was portrayed as Sarah Norman six times and Lydia once.
Plasmier: What was that like for you?
Schaefer: I was honored to portray the role of Sarah Norman, just like my role model, Marlee Matlin did. Well, back in 2001, I was a theatre student at CCBC ESSEX (Community College of Baltimore County Essex Campus). My voice and diction teacher, Donald Ray Schwartz, asked me to see him after class. He proposed that CCBC Theatre do “Children of a Lesser God,” and that I would play Sarah Norman. At that time, I thought he was kidding and did not truly know it was a stage play. Donald believed in me and gave me my first leading role. And then rest is history! So, that play and the role will always be close to my heart for numerous reasons. I’m blessed, and even Mark Medoff, the playwright, remained in touch with me until his death.
Plasmier: You also did “Tribes” by Nina Raine, where you played a teenage boy who is Deaf.
Schaefer: Yes, I did portray the role of Billy in “Tribes” by Nina Raine three times in 2016, one time in 2019 and one time in 2021. I’m the first Deaf Female Actor to be cast as Billy.
Plasmier: How did you find that role? What was your experience? Can you talk a little bit about that experience of playing Billy?
Schaefer: Well, I find a lot of acting opportunities via Facebook posts. I always work hard managing my career, even myself as an actor to look for roles in theatre and film. One friend of mine told me that a theatre company in Jackson Hole, Wyoming was looking for a Deaf actor for the role of Billy in “Tribes” by Nina Raine. I told her I can’t audition, as I’m a female. She told me “So what? I dare you to audition as you never know what will happen.” So, I did, and I nailed the role immediately after my audition. And my friend was right; she knew my talent and gift. It was an honor to play the role, break barriers even though I got backlash from the Deaf male actors, with many nasty comments. But a Deaf actor, who also portrayed Billy in several productions, James Caverly, of “Only Murders in the Building” congratulated me. I will never forget that day, “James, you brighten my day with your comment. Thank you!” It was an honor.
Plasmier: So, a man was accusing you of appropriation because you were not male? I’m confused why they went after you.
Schaefer: That’s exactly why, yes. But there are many male roles out there, way more than female roles. But I strongly value the cultural representation of a role, as I’m Deaf. —And it’s even more important to have a Deaf actor to play roles accurately—That applies to Sarah Norman in “Children of a Lesser God,” I even cringe when a hearing actor play Sarah. It’s just so wrong.
There were many hearing actors who have played Billy inaccurately since the role itself is Deaf. In spite of being a female, I’m Deaf and my life is similar to Billy, which I truly understand what he goes through. —You just have to be Deaf to understand and experience our lives. People will always say they do understand, but deep inside they don’t because they never experienced it.
Plasmier: What was the character going through that was similar to your life?
Schaefer: Billy and I struggle with our identity, and we both were born in a hearing family, living in the world of sounds. There are so many similarities with me and Billy, even me and Sarah Norman in “Children of a Lesser God.” One thing I have discovered is that Mark Medoff of “Children of a Lesser God” and “Tribes” by Nina Raine both have so many similarities with the stories.
Both Billy and Sarah fall in love, they fight, they find their voice, and both of them ironically have a sister named Ruth. I did not come to this realization until I was Billy, then the familiarity with Sarah in “Children of a Lesser God” was appearing in my mind. I find it very intriguing with both playwrights.
Anyway, in 2016, when I first portrayed Billy three different times. I wore a chest binder, cut my hair, and developed into a male mannerism. At the end of the play in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Director, Macey Mott—Her friend was asking her “Where is Michelle, I thought you said she is in the play?” the director replied, “She is and is Billy.” The friend was blown away, so were numerous audience members who had seen me as the male version of Billy in 2016, at Ophelia Jump Productions in Claremont, California
directed by Beatrice Casagran, and University of Northern Colorado Greeley directed by Matthew Herrrick.— Thank you!
Then in 2019 with Thunder River Theatre Company in Carbondale, Colorado, I portrayed Billy in a new perspective, and this time was as non-binary. The director, Corey Simpson, strongly values the story rather than the gender focus. But most important is Deaf authenticity. In 2021, my fifth and farewell to the role of Billy was at Tacoma Arts Live in Tacoma, Washington directed by the Broadway’s “Next to Normal’s” Louis Hobson! Louis and I chatted about life, and theatre and the meaning of “Tribes” which I loved the path we went into having me as a feminine Billy. The final performance hit me hard, as if it was yesterday. I cried so hard in one of my scenes when Billy signs to the family wanting them to learn sign, and understand Billy because it was also a personal experience. And the final bow, November 21, 2021, none of my family has seen “Tribes.”
Plasmier: I’m sure you consider yourself an advocate for authentic representation in entertainment.
Schaefer: Yes, I’m an advocate in arts, theatre, and films when it comes to representation, as representations matters.
Plasmier: Do you have any memorable roles in film that have been impactful for you?
Schaefer: Well, every film I do makes an impact, an opportunity. However, in one film, I did, a horror, “Made of These,” the role of Ashlinn was written for a person who can hear, a hearing person, but again— hearing roles—I prefer to use the term of “human role” because a Deaf person can play Ashlinn. I even played Hamlet in Hamlet.— And it was a human role, a non-Deaf and/or non-specific role.
When I saw the post on Facebook, I decided to audition. I blew everyone away and was cast. We only made a few changes, for example, instead of talking on the phone, we could Facetime. Simple changes. And it was the best experience working with the talented folks, Ven Scott, Tracee Beebe, Josh Wolfer, Sam Howard, and Brandon Lee Torres who all saw me equally as an artist! I was also recently nominated for best actor in two different Film Festivals for my role of Ashlinn in “Made of These.” In other words, we need more folks in theatre and films like them to open their mind, eyes, and heart to all possibilities when it comes to diversity, Deaf, disabled and art!
Also, my web series, “REAL,” has impacted me as an artist to see the audience enjoying the story and wanting to see more.
Plasmier: That’s something you wrote and produced?
Schaefer: Yes. And I starred in it.
Plasmier: Can you talk more about that? I see that it won many awards and has been nominated several times. That’s pretty exciting.
Schaefer: Yes, I’m really proud of that project and have many fans in the United States and Internationally. Both loved “REAL,” and have been asking me to make more episodes—But the pandemic happened which led to alternative plans, even better.
Plasmier: Why did you make it?
Schaefer: Well, I wrote many scripts, and then “REAL” was born. I decided to film it with a group of friends in Austin, Texas. I wanted to show something authentic, that there was nothing like “REAL” out on screen. And I wanted to create a role for me to act in because, as an artist, sometimes you have to create your own projects and roll your sleeves up instead of waiting for folks to be ready. —They are never going to be ready. You just have to keep going— And I wanted to share with the world what it’s truly like to be Deaf, in my own life experience—
Plasmier: What is it about?
Schaefer: A tiny film web series exploring Deafness, love and the lengths we go to find it. This tiny film follows Lauren as she navigates relationships and connections in a world of complex communication.
Plasmier: Is that available to stream or where can people find that?
Schaefer. Right now, “REAL” has been optioned and developed into a full-fledged series with Thomas Gidlow with Skyphire Entertainment.
Plasmier: A series like a TV or a streaming series?
Schaefer: We are working together to bring “REAL” out.
Schaefer: I also have another very large project, a feature film, “Destiny.” Back in 2021, I wrote the script for “Destiny,” and am currently working with the producers, Brandon Lee Torres and Elran Ofir to move this project forward looking for film funding and then green light this precious film.
Plasmier: Can you share a quick summary?
Schaefer: The film “Destiny” is inspired by my real-life friendship with an older lesbian friend, whom I consider as my dear Aunt from Cornwall. Life, love and friendship between two continents, despite language and cultural differences, brings two souls together. —It’s Destiny.
Plasmier: That sounds like a great film. You have to keep us up-to-date on how that goes.
Schaefer: It certainly is a profoundly moving film, which will be an award-winning, never-before-done film. It’s going to impact everyone. Unfortunately, I have been turned down by a lot of lesbian filmmakers on “Destiny”—
Plasmier: You’ve been turned down by lesbian filmmakers?
Schaefer: Yeah, a lot of my projects, pitch decks, ideas, proposals, all have been turned down. They even turned down my completed TV series, “Always Natalie”. However, I do not allow it to stop me, just keep going.
Plasmier: Since you brought up lesbian culture, you were just involved with a large project, “Coming out for Love.”
Plasmier: So, it’s a big dating show, dating competition?
Schaefer: Yes. I always wanted to work with Nicole Conn since I watched one of her films, “Elena Undone.” Nicole—The two of us became friends through social media. One day, she asked me to audition for “Coming out for Love.” And I said “Yes, sure” with a sense of excitement of the possibilities in being in a feature film written and directed by Nicole Conn.
Then later, I discovered it was not a feature film, it was a reality dating competition, which I did not know.
Plasmier: (laughs) That’s great!
Schaefer: When Nicole asked me to audition, I looked “Coming Out for Love” up and thought to myself “Oh jeez. It’s a TV show! It’s a reality TV show!” I was scared.
So, remember, when I mentioned about a friend from Cornwall that “Destiny” was inspired by, well Nicole asked her to tell me to audition for “Coming Out for Love.” At that time, I knew I had to just give my best, not thinking I would be selected to appear on the show. Fast forward to July, 2021 when I was directing and starring in “Children of a Lesser God,” Nicole reached out to me that I had a lot of votes! Right before walking to the theatre, I was freaking out and couldn’t talk to anyone about it.
Schaefer: August comes, and Nicole contacts me to inform me that I was selected to be part of the first US lesbian reality dating competition show, and I turned it down.
Plasmier: And then?
Schaefer: I was terrified, I can play any-kinds of roles onstage, and in films, but in real life, I’m introverted, well can be ambivert. Anyway, we kind of went back and forth. And I finally said, “Okay, yes, let’s do it.”
Plasmier: That’s cool. The show had so much representation, intersectionality.
Schaefer: Yes. A lot of important themes.
Plasmier: So, how did the whole thing work out for you? How was it to interact with everyone? Because there’s a lot going on at the same time with 16 of you interacting. And then it’s a competition, right?
Schaefer: When I first got on the set in Palm Springs, California, of course, I was thrilled to see Nicole and finally meet Nicole. I was really nervous because I felt like an outcast. But I knew inside my heart that I would make a difference. I’d make an impact being me and just being authentic.
Plasmier: What led you to feel like an outcast? Was it the crowd? I know when I’m in a crowd of people and everyone is talking, I have no idea what’s going on.
Schaefer: There were many different layers. Remember, at the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was isolated. I was isolated. I had no communication. I had no access to people. I didn’t have ASL. Nothing. So, going to the show, that was what really made me nervous.
I wasn’t sure if the other girls would accept me because I hadn’t been social due to the pandemic. And prior to the pandemic, I was working back to back, non-stop since 2016 in theatre. Prior to filming “Coming Out for Love,” I was doing my first pandemic live theatrical production, “Children of a Lesser God” which had strict equity rules to keep everyone safe. Anyway, when I meet lesbians at the bar, coffee shop or dating apps, when I once had it, they ghost as soon as I said “I’m Deaf.” Wait, I said “Deaf,” not “Death” which genuinely shows that they are intimidated and afraid to communicate with me. That exact same fear I had, about “Coming Out for Love.” So, I overcame that fear, and say just be me—
Plasmier: So, did that happen on the show? How were you received?
Schaefer: During “Coming Out for Love,” they did accept me but often forgot to “include” me. They would forget that I’m Deaf, so they would leave me out. — Society would always ask me where is your interpreter? Why didn’t you bring one? Well, for a fact, I don’t have an interpreter 24/7 and did not want to perceive any assumptions on the girls and Amber thinking that’s my actual life. I wanted the other girls and Amber to learn to communicate with me because that’s real life. I don’t have an interpreter with me 24/7. I don’t. I mean, do you see anyone here with me? No.
Plasmier: Do you lip read?
Schaefer: Yes, I do lip read and speak.
I remembered that one night I truly was left out by all the gals. I went to bed and was very restless and couldn’t sleep. I cried. And then the next day, I went to make coffee, brought my coffee to the bathroom, crying in the shower. As I got out of the shower the production assistant, Natalie, called me to the sofa, which was the “place” for all the girls. I asked her if I could talk to Nicole Conn privately. She came into my room with concern. I was wrapped in a towel dripping wet, crying and sharing everything with Nicole which led to the big moment in one of the episodes of “Coming Out for Love.” Very vulnerable moment ever!
Plasmier: Okay, so is that the point where the show changed for you?
Schaefer: Yeah, that was a big turning point.
Plasmier: So you’re glad you did the show?
Schaefer: Somewhat, yes. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Honestly. So, it’s a continuous trigger for me, unfortunately. It’s finished. The show is done. There were only two people that actually learned ASL. One was the producer, and the other one who is currently learning, a contestant, Sofia.
The others wanted to learn. That’s what they always said. But, hopefully one day, they’ll take it up or continue with it. Maybe we’ll have a reunion, and they’ll be motivated to learn ASL. I haven’t seen any of them for two years now. I’m excited to see them again.
Plasmier: So this was filmed two years ago?
Plasmier: One of your other talents, you studied to be an intimacy coordinator?
Plasmier: I have to ask, did that come in handy for this series?
Schaefer: Well, for the show, I’m not thinking about intimacy or being an intimacy coordinator. I’m just a contestant. However, I did observe others, watched their body languages and did see some informed consents happening on the show. And the others— I cannot answer as I was not there at that moment. You just have to watch the show!
Plasmier: Okay, so that’s something that you do.
Schaefer: Yes, I am Intimacy Coordinator for Films and Intimacy Director for Theatre.
Plasmier: You also are DASL (Director of Artistic Sign Language.)?
Schaefer: Yes, I would like to change that to more appropriate verbiage. I would prefer to use an ASL consultant rather than DASL.
Plasmier: What does that mean to you, if you can explain that?
Schaefer: Well, in theatre, I would break down the script and analyze it, the story, the scenes, and dialogues. Then translate it from English to ASL to ensure the signing is clear and accurate. Now, if I do a Shakespeare production, for instance, I would have to translate Shakespeare to English to ASL and go back and forth and then analyze the story as well. Now, for films, it will be the same method with script analyzing, the story and the dialogues. But I will also work with Actors to ensure their signings are clear and accurate and also would work with actors who do not know ASL, to help them learn their lines/signs. I also work with Directors and Writers, too. Basically, it’s a whole teamwork in process in both theatre and films.
Plasmier: What do you see in the industry right now? Are the people who need to use ASL in their roles Deaf? Are they playing a Deaf person?
Schaefer: I work with Deaf actors to ensure that their signing is clear when delivering lines. I also work with hearing actors or even some Deaf Actors who do not know ASL and/or just learning ASL. Like, I have helped actors who have played James Leeds in “Children of a Lesser God” with their signed lines, and even Cesario/Viola in “Twelfth Night” with her signed lines etc.
I will not work with hearing actors who are portraying Deaf roles. I just won’t.
Plasmier: Do you see any of that? Or do you see the representation in the industry getting better?
Schaefer: Representation within the industry has not changed. It is still the same, and, unfortunately, there are still hearing actors still auditioning and/or portraying a Deaf role. I still do not understand why it is still happening. I even once had an audition for a Deaf role, but the script said BASL, which is Black American Sign Language. I told my agent that I cannot audition for the role because I’m white, so I passed the opportunity. I just could not comprehend why couldn’t a hearing actor do the same for Deaf roles.
And also, if you think about it, studies show that seven major studios released 77 films in 2021 and out of that only 16 had LGBTQ characters: 11 gay, four lesbian, two bi and one trans. And in 2020 .05% screenwriting jobs went to disabled writers. But all that doesn’t include Deaf Lesbian. So, representation is not there yet which is why I created “Always Natalie,” my TV series; “Destiny,” my feature film; “REAL,” the series, and many more scripts I have already written.
Plasmier: One more question. I see you have a photo with Marlee Matlin. You met her?
Schaefer: Yes, I have met Marlee Matlin four times in person. And recently in March, 2023 she finally met my famous dog, Annabelle, whom I named my Production Company after—Annabelle Louise Productions. I have a logo of my production company with her. Everyone falls in love with her. She has been in two stage plays and several films with me.
Plasmier: Your famous dog, she’s adorable. How long have you had her?
Schaefer: She’s 13. I’ve had her since she was three months old. Annabelle has been with me and my journey in college, life, theatre, films and made an appearance on “Coming Out for Love.” She is my world, daughter, traveling buddy, costar, my love and my everything. There have been times when I wanted to give up a project, my career or whatever. I look at her, and her love and encouragement is enough for me to continue. And that is why I named my production company after her.
Plasmier: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us? Anything up and coming or something we should look for?
Schaefer: I wrote a spontaneous suspense horror thriller short, “It’s a Match,” which I directed along with the fabulous director of photography, Ralph Scherer, bringing the story alive to the screen. Working with Ralph was pure magical, with tons of visions, communications, and laughs.— I cannot wait to share this film with all of you!
I’m also working on and will star in an award-winning script, “I Love You So Much” with Tasha Hardy. It’s a silent film or TV proof of concept about a female musician who has recently lost her hearing and discovers hope in her new life.
And there is one thing I wanted to emphasize. Captions. Captions are so important for everyone. Not just for the Deaf but for hearing people too. I just want to emphasize that. I don’t want to feel like a broken record, but again and again, people don’t listen. There is no DEI without folks that are Deaf, Disabled, and a full equal access for all.