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When a deaf classmate asked 24-year-old beauty vlogger Catherine Martinez to translate what was being said in a video, she realized there was an entire population neglected by the vlogger-sphere. Currently, there are 28 million Americans that are considered deaf or hearing disabled, according to the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). Then and there, she made it her mission to start creating content with American Sign Language (ASL) and closed captions.
“A deaf woman in my class would always ask me about my makeup, and I told her about the beauty vloggers I follow who give tips,” Martinez told PEOPLE CHICA. But when Martinez rewatched the tutorials she recommended and realized that none included closed captioning, she decided to take a course on sign language and create content tailored to the needs of the deaf and hearing impaired. “I’m only on ASL level 2, but I’m going to continue [making videos and] further my studies.”
Martinez, who’s of Venezuelan and Colombian descent, decided to formalize her ASL studies by getting an undergraduate degree from the Communicative Sciences and Disorders program at New York University. “I always wanted to do something with language,” she explained. She recalls visits with audiologists and speech therapists during her children inspiring her interest in the field. “I’ve always like the hearing mechanism, and I’ve always been into science and anatomy.”
Now she combines her love for makeup and her devotion to the hearing impaired and deaf community by creating and sharing tutorials on her Instagram page. The outpouring of support and gratitude from her followers has been overwhelming.
“I personally came from a deaf heritage background & grew up with ASL my entire life & now I work with deaf children. and it’s so inspiring to see your videos because I love makeup and the deaf community is a huge part of my life!” one follower wrote.
Another wrote: “My 4 year old profoundly hard of hearing daughter and I love watching your videos. The look of excitement on her face when you start signing is something I am so grateful of. People like you are the difference!”
Her work is also encouraging followers to learn the visual language as well. “Because of you I practice my ASL alphabet every day…” a fan chimed in.
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In the near future, Martinez hopes to see more people in the community populate the beauty industry as bloggers, makeup artists and retailers. “Just because most people need oral communication doesn’t mean that they can’t break that barrier and be able to work,” she said.
Eventually, the beauty vlogger hopes to pursue a doctorate in audiology and dreams of world where the hearing and the hearing impaired can easily commune with one another.