Olivia Rodrigo, other nominees bring ASL interpreters to Grammys

This year’s Grammy Awards were more accessible for deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members than ever before.

Several news outlets and deaf individuals commended Best New Artist winner Olivia Rodrigo for conducting interviews alongside an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter — such accommodations didn’t stop with Rodrigo’s ASL interpreter, though. Numerous other high-profile nominees hired ASL interpreters to help make their message more accessible during red-carpet coverage, including Chloe Bailey, Elle King, and Mickey Guyton.

The move comes on the heels of the Academy Awards, which also represented a milestone for deaf and hard-of-hearing representation in the entertainment industry. Just one week prior to the Grammy Awards, a film prominently featuring ASL, CODA, won three Oscars — CODA’s nominations prompted several accessibility accommodations for deaf and hard-of-hearing actors and audience members. Deaf actor Troy Kotsur delivered his acceptance speech in ASL, highlighting the language’s growing visibility in the current entertainment landscape.

Kotsur’s co-star Marlee Matlin — also the first deaf actor to win an Oscar in history — took to Twitter to commend Rodrigo’s efforts to make the event more accessible.

According to USA Today, this year’s Grammy Awards were even more inclusive than they had been in the past — not just with regards to ASL accessibility, but also in terms of the organizers’ efforts to highlight a more diverse array of artists. 

Signed languages have taken on a more prominent role in entertainment and the public sphere in recent years. In 2020, the Sanremo Music Festival began offering sign language interpretations in Italian Sign Language, consisting of signed interpretations and choreography of each song performed at the festival. While inclusivity may be on the rise, there’s still a long way to true equity — ASL interpreters at the Grammys were not a requirement, but rather a choice by each artist and their team. And at the Sanremo Music Festival’s most recent iteration, Italian Sign Language interpreters were not present, due to a dispute over fair compensation.

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Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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