#DeafSpotlight: Ewok - Hearing and Speech Agency

#DeafSpotlight: Ewok

Soleil Wheeler, more popularly known as “Ewok," is a 13-year-old Deaf streamer on Twitch, a live streaming video platform. Ewok and her family are Deaf. Her father is an ASL professor at a high school and is known for hosting a popular ASL teaching show “ASL That.”  Ewok has accumulated over 133 thousand followers on Twitch, 42 thousand followers on Twitter, and 22 thousand followers on Instagram. How has she gotten so popular when she streams on a platform that primarily focuses on video game content, when most video games aren’t very accessible for Deaf and hard-of-hearing gamers?

Ewok streams and plays the wildly popular game, Fortnite. Fortnite is one of the few games that has made an effort to be accessible, offering an in-game sound visualizer feature. This feature allows Deaf/HoH gamers the opportunity to see sound by showing colored directional arrows that point to where a sound is coming from, like a sound radar system. Deaf/HoH players can see if an enemy player is nearby in the same way that hearing players can hear if and where an enemy is nearby. When this feature is activated, it mutes the game’s audio, which keeps hearing players from using the feature as an extra advantage.

Fortnite also has a huge streaming audience and community on Twitch, comprised of streamers like TimTheTatman (otherwise known as Timothy John Betar), who has over 3.8 million followers and 140 million views on Twitch. TimTheTatman was a main proponent in Ewok’s rise in popularity. After Ewok reached out to Tim on social media, Tim hosted (Twitch’s feature where streamers can play another’s channel over their own as they go offline, essentially sharing a channel to current viewers to watch) Ewok’s channel. Viewers loved her and eventually she was being hosted by other popular streamers and even playing Fortnite with them. Streamer Mizfit hosted Ewok’s channel and asked his viewers to subscribe to her, which gives her a recurring income from the platform. Fortnite icons like streamer Ninja, Dr. Lupo, and Tfue all joined in as they played with her and took pictures with her at Fortnite events. Ewok even participated in a Fortnite Pro-Am event partnering with TimTheTatman and for a portion of the event she was on stage being interviewed in ASL. NFL Quarterback, Kurt Benkert, a viewer of TimTheTatman and Ewok, even accepted an offer to learn ASL from Ewok’s dad for a charitable cause.

Soleil Wheeler, or Ewok, has succeeded at becoming a popular streamer as well as a deaf awareness icon. Whether through ranking highly in Fortnite as a player, accumulating viewers on Twitch as a streamer, or drawing interest from viewers to learn about sign language and the Deaf community, Ewok teaches the importance of accessibility and inclusion in all facets of life, even video games.

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