Top 10 Deaf American Icons
Trailblazers Who Transformed Perceptions. Selection by the SLAIT School.
Explore the diverse and inspiring journeys of the 10 most popular Deaf Americans who have made their mark on the world. From accomplished actors and athletes to advocates and educators, these remarkable individuals have broken barriers, shattered stereotypes, and achieved excellence in their respective fields.

Discover how their resilience and talent have not only shaped their own destinies but also paved the way for greater awareness and inclusivity in the broader American landscape.
Nyle DiMarco

Nyle, born on May 8, 1989, in Queens, New York, is a prominent Deaf actor and model. He gained fame by winning "America's Next Top Model" Cycle 22 and later triumphed on "Dancing with the Stars" Season 22, making history as the first Deaf contestant to do so.

Nyle is not only a talented entertainer but also a passionate advocate for Deaf rights and representation.

Photo credits: GQ

Photo credits: Forbes
Marlee Matlin

Marlee, born on August 24, 1965, in Morton Grove, Illinois, is an Academy Award-winning actress known for her exceptional talent. Her breakthrough role in "Children of a Lesser God" earned her an Oscar, making her the first Deaf performer to win the prestigious award.

Throughout her career, Marlee has advocated for Deaf culture, inclusivity, and awareness.
I. King Jordan

Jordan, born on June 16, 1943, in Glen Riddle, Pennsylvania, made history by becoming the first Deaf president of Gallaudet University, a leading institution for Deaf education.

His presidency, which began in 1988, was marked by significant changes and advancements in Deaf education and Deaf culture, leaving a lasting legacy in the Deaf community.

Photo credits: Wikipedia
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Photo credits: Charles Rex Arbogast
Heather Whitestone

Heather, born on February 24, 1973, in Dothan, Alabama, achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first Deaf woman to be crowned Miss America in 1995.

Her victory was a source of inspiration to Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals worldwide, and she has continued to advocate for people with disabilities.
Linda Bove

Linda, born on November 30, 1945, in Garfield, New Jersey, is a beloved actress recognized for her role as Linda on the iconic children's TV show, "Sesame Street."

She used her platform to promote Deaf awareness and acceptance while positively representing Deaf culture for generations of young viewers.

Photo credits: Hyperallergic

Photo credits: Ability Magazine
CJ Jones

Jones is a Deaf actor and comedian known for his energetic performances and humor that transcends language barriers.

He has entertained audiences in comedy clubs and on television, using American Sign Language to connect with his audience and share his unique perspective.
Dr. Andrew Foster

Andrew (1925-1987) was a pioneering Deaf educator who dedicated his life to establishing schools for the Deaf in several African countries.

He is often celebrated as the "Father of Deaf Education in Africa" for his tireless efforts to improve educational opportunities for Deaf children on the continent.

Photo credits: Hyperallergic

Photo credits: Ability Magazine
Derrick Coleman

Derrick, born on October 18, 1990, in Los Angeles, California, made history as the first Deaf offensive player in the NFL.

Despite facing obstacles, he pursued a successful career in professional football, inspiring Deaf athletes and proving that hearing loss is not a barrier to success in sports.
Sean Berdy

Sean, born on June 3, 1993, in Boca Raton, Florida, is a Deaf actor renowned for his role in the TV series "Switched at Birth." He has used his acting career to raise awareness about Deaf culture and the unique challenges faced by Deaf individuals in society.

Photo credits: Wikipedia

Photo credits: Ability Magazine
Lou Ferrigno

Lou, born on November 9, 1951, in Brooklyn, New York, experienced significant hearing loss as a child but is best known as the actor who portrayed the Hulk in the popular TV series "The Incredible Hulk."

Despite his hearing impairment, he became a celebrated actor and an advocate for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community.