As part of his American Sign Language (ASL) Champions Tour, Sean Berdy, a deaf actor who rose to fame from the ABC Family television show, Switched at Birth, shared his story of how he overcame his struggles in life.
Berdy visited Crosby Theater on Thursday, Sept. 28, for a motivational speech; a music video based on Enrique Iglesias’ song “Hero,” where Berdy signs and acts the lyrics of the song; and a meet-and-greet session. The entire event was sign-to-voice interpreted, and the video can be found on YouTube.
Alabama is one of eight states Berdy will be visiting on his tour, and he chose to visit Troy University because of its emphasis on deaf awareness which can be contributed to the influence of First Lady Janice Hawkins, who has been involved with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.
Troy is also the only university in Alabama that offers an interpreter training program, and the only national online interpreting program, according to Troy’s website.
Emmett Bledsoe, Berdy’s character on the show, is described to be a “deaf James Dean,” who rides a motorcycle, plays the drums and is a photographer, according to Berdy’s bio.
In his speech, Berdy detailed the challenges of being deaf, but explained that his drive got him where he is today, exhibiting how his deafness did not hinder him.
“Look at me as the exhibit of what you can be in life,” Berdy said.
Berdy also spoke of his struggles with his depression and bipolar disorder and described how he does not let that define him.
Yvonne Hankey, an ASL language lab mentor who is deaf, said that she enjoyed Berdy’s presentation.
“He talks about the human experience, being depressed and it being okay,” Hankey said. “If you have those things, it’s okay.
“You can accept those things about yourself and accept people who have things like that and accept the fact that people are not perfect.”
Based on his own experience, he offered his tips on how to deal with stress and mental health.
Berdy said that nutrition, sleep, exercise and therapy are important. He said a positive mentality and self-care routines help him keep his mental health in check.
Alicia Hornberger, a senior interpreter training program major from Prattville, said the University was able to open the event up to students and the deaf community.
“We got the education department involved and got the dean to purchase a good bulk of tickets to invite students,” Hornberger said. “We also invited the deaf community and tried to get their tickets for free as well since the actor himself is deaf.”
While there were tickets sold for the event, there were a limited number of free student tickets available.
Judy Robertson, the director of the interpreter training program, said she felt the event was a success.
“I felt that many people were inspired,” Robertson said. “They felt basically led to be themselves and push through any of their adversities they may be experiencing.”
When asked during the question-and-answer portion after the presentation how he felt inspiring a wave of people to learn ASL and engage with the deaf community, Berdy said he was truly “thankful, blessed and honored” to be a part of the awareness effort.