Oscar-nominated Feeling Through has a Deafblind Character. It also has Ableist and Racist Messages.

Oscar-nominated film Feeling Through Exploits Deafblind People

I normally don’t follow the Oscars, but this year’s nominations include a short film with a Deafblind character. Depictions of underrepresented groups in movies influence how the mainstream public treats us. Feeling Through features a Black teen taking advantage of a Deafblind man, perpetuating the dangerous “Black criminals” stereotype.

The portrayal of deafblindness also advances harmful stereotypes. How the Deafblind character travels with a cane, shops, and manages money does not represent Deafblind people. The New York Times mistakenly praised the film for being “a window into the largely unknown world of deaf-blindness,” which saddens me. Celebrating Feeling Through adds to the discrimination facing disabled people at work, school, and the community.

Most film critics miss the racism and ableism in Feeling Through, so I created my own film review with a disability justice perspective.

Film Review Video Transcript

You can use Feeling Through to teach people to catch racist and ableist messages, skills all of us dedicated to human rights should have.

One last thing. Some film critics claim Feeling Through is the first film to cast a Deafblind actor in a leading role, but that’s incorrect. The 1919 film Deliverance featured Helen Keller cast as herself in that film about her life. Let’s continue to remember Helen Keller.


Haben speaking. Hello! One of the films nominated for an Oscar has a Deafblind character,
and it’s received a lot of press for having a Deafblind actor playing the Deafblind character.
And that’s the only nice thing I can say about this film. It’s called Feeling Through, and in this
film, the Deafblind character’s named Artie.

He meets a young man, a teenager out on the street and asks the teen for help. And the
whole film is about the interaction between the Deafblind guy and the sighted hearing teen.
Well, Artie asks to go to a store. They go to a store. On the way, Artie is using his cane and
his cane smacks against a piece of construction.

The cane did its job. That’s how canes work. They bump into things. And that signals to the
blind person that something’s there and the blind person would, if they have good cane
skills, navigate around the obstacle. That’s not what happened in this film. The producer
decided for the blind person to smack his cane against this obstacle and then trip. He
doesn’t really trip over the obstacle. He seems to trip over air. This was chosen by the
producer. Again, there are lots of Deafblind people and blind people who use white canes all
the time. I’m sure a few of them trip over air. But this is not representative of the blind and
Deafblind community.

So that happens, and they keep walking and they get to the store. And at the store, what
does Artie do? The producer has Artie hand over his wallet to this complete stranger. I
would never do that. I don’t know any Deafblind people who would do that. Hand over your
wallet to a complete stranger. The teen, the sighted hearing teen takes the wallet, buys
some items at the store, doesn’t tell Artie what he’s buying, buys items and pockets some of
Artie’s money. He doesn’t ask for permission. This is stealing. Later, they return to the bus
stop and at the bus stop, they fall asleep. I don’t know any disabled people who would fall
asleep at a bus stop in the middle of the night in New York City, but the producer has this

And during that time, the sighted hearing teen wakes up, notices Artie is still asleep, reaches
in and takes Artie’s notebook, reads through it. Invasion of privacy. Trust is fragile. Lots of
disabled people are concerned of being taken advantage of. Imagine being a Deafblind
person and learning of this film, this film that has been nominated for an Oscar, where a
Deafblind person’s privacy is invaded and a stranger steals from them. And this is supposed
to be a feel-good inspirational film. When I read this, it was deeply disturbing. I was also
concerned about employers, teachers, community members who would watch this film and
make assumptions about Deafblind people.

This could cause people to be discriminated against. Another thing to note is the sighted
hearing teen is Black. So we have another film portraying the racial stereotype of the black
criminal. America is struggling with racism. We don’t need a film that portrays racism and
ableism. Disabled people are harmed by this film. Black people are also harmed by this film.
If you’re voting in the Oscars or you know someone who’s voting in the Oscars, please don’t
reward films that advance racist and ableist stereotypes.