Nyle DiMarco may be a champion on the Dancing With the Stars dance floor (he took home the prize in season 22), but the actor and model is also a champion for the deaf community.
Earlier this year, DiMarco, who has been deaf since birth, founded the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, a non-profit aimed at improving the lives and awareness surrounding people who are deaf. On Tuesday, the Foundation released a new animated video educating viewers about the dangers language deprivation can have on deaf children.
“Being Deaf myself, and being fortunate enough to be born into an American Sign Language and English-fluent multigenerational Deaf family, I had access to language input from birth,” DiMarco told EW via email. “Growing up attending deaf schools, I saw others who weren’t as lucky. Deaf and Hard of Hearing children are still experiencing delays in learning language today, and it breaks my heart to think about that.”
As the video explains through a series of animations and infographics, deaf children who grow up without sign language suffer educational setbacks, despite the fact that their brains are just as capable of learning language as hearing children, and in fact have no preference as to what language they are taught.
“When it came to early language delays in Deaf and Hard of Hearing children, we felt that we could tell a story that touched the heart through an infographic, animated video,” DiMarco explained. “That way, we could balance the facts — scientific research — with a touch of humanity. Deaf and Hard of Hearing children aren’t statistics, they’re living and breathing beings, and they’re the future of our community.”
Even before the video’s release, DiMarco’s foundation has had a busy inaugural year, partnering with LEAD-K (for which DiMarco is also the spokesman) and the Love and Language campaign, as well as experiencing a “huge” response from both the deaf and hearing communities.
In the coming year, DiMarco said he’s focused on the Love and Language Campaign, and continuing to raise awareness of the importance of early language acquisition for deaf and hard of hearing children. He also revealed the Foundation will be releasing two more videos.
And can we expect to see him cha-cha his way through 2017?
“My foundation hosted a fundraiser event [last month] and we actually auctioned off the opportunity to dance with me right there at the event,” he said. “That was a lot of fun! We hope to do more of these fundraisers in the near future.”