Troy Kotsur, who plays the protagonist’s father, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
CODA is an acronym for Children of Deaf Adults and the film is an adaptation of the French film La Famille Bélier.
Due to CODA’s success and Kotsur’s win, this year’s Oscars featured more sign language than any previous ceremony. However, this is not the first year that an Oscar has been accepted in sign language.
Jane Fonda also signed part of her Oscars acceptance speech for Best Actress for her role in Coming Home in 1979. In the speech, she explains that “I’m signing part of what I’m saying tonight because while we were making the movie, we all became more aware of the problems of the handicapped.”
“Over 14 million people are deaf. They are the invisible handicapped and can’t share this evening, so this is my way of acknowledging them.” The Academy did not offer closed captioning at the time.
The Oscars ceremony began providing closed captioning in 1982. It was the first American live event to offer closed captioning according to the Described and Captioned Media Program.
Marlee Matlin became the first deaf actor to win an Oscar for acting in 1986. She won the award for Best Actress for her performance in Children of a Lesser God. She is also the youngest ever actress to win Best Actress, taking home the trophy when she was only twenty-one years old. Matlin also stars in CODA, though she was not nominated for an Oscar this year. Kotsur is the second deaf actor to win an Oscar.
This year the Oscars provided certified interpreters for all deaf and hard of hearing nominees and invited nominees’ own interpreters to the ceremony.
There were also two ASL interpreters within Dolby Theatre for the audience. Two ASL interpreters also worked in a separate room in the theatre to provide live coverage on the Academy’s YouTube feed.
Several audience members chose to sign their applause when Kotsur and the cast and crew of CODA took to the stage to accept their awards.
Hopefully, future ceremonies will follow suit and commit to providing an inclusive show for all attendees and audiences.