LITTLE ROCK (KATV) —
It’s the kind of cheering you typically see after the home team wins. But one Little Rock family, the Pompeo’s, is not rooting for their favorite athlete.
They’re watching Dancing with the Stars (DWTS), as Nyle DiMarco became the show’s first deaf celebrity to take home the Mirror Ball; in a competition where most would say, the ability to hear is an asset.
However, Harry Pompeo is quick to tell anyone, deaf does not mean different.
“The deaf community, all over, I think the world was saying, ‘he’ll win, he’ll win. No doubt!’ And sure enough, he did win last night,” said Pompeo.
Throughout the season, DiMarco educated DWTS viewers on the deaf community. At one point, showing the audience what he doesn’t hear during a dance.
The Pompeo family, who are active at the Arkansas School for the Deaf, hope the awareness he raises will continue. “I’m fine!” says Jackie Pompeo. “I am happy to be deaf. You know that doesn’t bother me a bit, it’s the pity. Don’t pity me. I am proud.”
One problem the deaf community faces is a misconception about sign language. Some hearing parents don’t learn ASL and can’t communicate with their deaf children.
“We want the exposure for the deaf kids, for ASL, and for English… That we can have both languages,” explains Harry Pompeo.
It’s an issue DiMarco highlights through his foundation, which teaches deaf children to sign at an early age and makes sure they have access to bilingual education.
“The world is kind of evolving and focusing on what they can do, what deaf people can do,” said Arkansas School for the Deaf Superintendent Dr. Janet Dickinson.
That’s something the Arkansas School for the Deaf tries to instill in their students. Which is why many of the students were cheering for DiMarco throughout the season.
“Nyle didn’t make any mistakes and just danced perfect,” exclaimed one student. “Hearing people look up to deaf now and say ‘whoa,’ and say, ‘deaf people can do that’.”
Making Nyle’s achievement, a source of pride for this school and this family. For more details on the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, click here. Also, you can go to Arkansas School for the Deaf for information on resources.