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CODA Represents PWDs At The 94th Academy Awards

CODA Represents PWDs At The 94th Academy Awards

CODA, a feel-good indie drama following the life of a deaf family and their single hearing daughter, Ruby (played by Emilia Jones), bagged the top spot on March 27 at the 94th Academy Awards.

It is an impressive win, beating out director Jane Campion’s The Power of Dog, Steven Spielberg’s musical remake of West Side Story, and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast.

CODA is an acronym for “Child of Deaf Adult.” It is considered a landmark triumph for disability representation on the big screen. The story revolves around Ruby, the only member of her family who can hear, loves music and singing. Encouraged by her school’s choirmaster, she applies to a prestigious music school. It is then that her inner conflict begins between obligations she feels she owes her family and her own dreams.

CODA represents persons with disabilities

Perhaps what separates this flick from others like it is its authenticity. Instead of having hearing actors portray deaf characters, the film features deaf actors. Marlee Matlin, who plays Ruby’s mom, is an Oscar winner who has been deaf since she was 18 months old. Troy Kotsur plays Ruby’s father. He won Best Supporting Actor for his role in CODA, making him the first deaf actor to win such an accolade. Meanwhile, Daniel Durant, another member of the deaf community, portrays Ruby’s brother.

Why is this important?

Across the world, there are some 1 billion persons with disabilities (PWDs). Research shows that PWDs are a large part of the world’s poor. Indeed, they are poorer than their abled counterparts.

Media plays a big role in influencing public opinion and establishing standards. For so long, they are very rarely portrayed on-screen, and when they are, they are negative stereotypes. They serve as the main characters’ object of pity or charity or even as comic relief. Otherwise, they are treated as superheroes who have overcome great odds to become an inspiration to their community. Media has a responsibility to raise awareness, eliminate stigma and fight misinformation. It has the ability to change our understanding and perceptions of society of those differently-abled. As such, CODA has done so with a balanced portrayal of disability as a normal part of life.

Deafness and Hearing loss

More than 5% of the world’s population suffers from deafness. Authorities predict that by 2050, almost 2.5 billion people will be afflicted with hearing loss to some extent, while 700 million will need rehabilitation.

Disruptive hearing loss is a loss of hearing greater than 35 decibels in the ear that hears better. This condition can be mild, moderate, severe, or profound. It may also affect one or both ears. As a result, people with hearing loss have a hard time hearing speech or even loud sounds.

You may have also heard of people who are “hard of hearing.” This refers to those whose hearing loss is mild to severe. They can usually get by with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Meanwhile, “deaf” people are those with profound hearing loss. They have very little or no hearing at all and use sign language to communicate with others.

A variety of factors cause hearing loss. Before birth, it may result from genetic factors or intrauterine infections like rubella.

During birth, it might be caused by a lack of oxygen while exiting the womb. It may also be caused by low birth weight, and severe jaundice in the prenatal period.

During childhood, chronic ear infections, a collection of fluid in the ear and some infections could bring about hearing loss.

In adulthood, its causes span anywhere from chronic conditions, smoking and age-related degeneration.

Hearing loss affects a person’s chances of education and employment. Children with hearing loss sadly do not get schooling, while adults with hearing loss have a higher unemployment rate.

The upside is that hearing loss could be reduced through vaccination, good childcare, genetic counseling, early detection and management of common ear conditions, among other methods.

Key Takeaway

The recognition CODA received is a step in the right direction for proper representation of the deaf community, and by extension, the PWD community. There’s still a long way to go for the inclusion of such people, covering proper healthcare, education, and methods by which they can have a better quality of life.

Learn more about Deafness here.


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Disability and the Media, https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/resources/disability-and-the-media.html. Accessed 28 Mar 2022

‘CODA’ sounds the bell at Oscars with historic best picture win, https://ph.news.yahoo.com/coda-sounds-bell-oscars-historic-055621059.html. Accessed 28 Mar 2022

‘CODA’ featuring Duluth’s Daniel Durant wins Best Picture, https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/local/coda-featuring-duluths-daniel-durant-wins-best-picture. Accessed 28 Mar 2022

Marlee Matlin, https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0559144/. Accessed 28 Mar 2022

Deafness and hearing loss, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss. Accessed 28 Mar 2022

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Written by China Logarta Updated Apr 15
Medically reviewed by Dexter Macalintal, MD