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Jameela Jamil explains why she turned down the role of a deaf woman in a film… as she calls for ‘big change’ in Hollywood

Speaking out: Jameela Jamil has revealed she recently turned down the role of a deaf woman in a film because she would rather it go to a 'brilliant deaf woman' instead

Bryan Cranston being cast as a quadriplegic man in new film The Upside has sparked a conversation in Hollywood about not giving enough opportunities to deserving actors.

And Jameela Jamil has weighed into the debate, revealing that she recently turned down the role of a deaf woman in a film because she would rather it go to a ‘brilliant deaf woman’ instead.

The 32-year-old star – who was born partially deaf – insisted it ‘wouldn’t be appropriate’ for her to play the part since she can now hear.

‘I think you have to make those choices and not be too greedy and make space rather than take space. I don’t want to be part of erasure.’

The Good Place actress insisted a ‘big change’ was needed in the industry and there should be more roles available for LGBT actors and those with disabilities instead of them being given to ‘big names’.

She conceded that it was ‘very tricky’ conversation, however, since acting is all about suspending disbelief and having the freedom to play any role.

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1800s Oshkosh baseball player Hoy was deaf and, some say, invented umpire hand signals

William Hoy joined the Oshkosh baseball team in 1886, the first year the team was started. According to the Oshkosh Public Museum, Hoy is in the far back row, far left.

William Hoy joined the Oshkosh baseball team in 1886, the first year the team was started. According to the Oshkosh Public Museum, Hoy is in the far back row, far left. (Photo: Courtesy of the Oshkosh Public Museum)

OSHKOSH – William Hoy started playing baseball 133 years ago in Oshkosh for the city’s minor league team in the Northwestern League.

While he compiled solid statistics throughout his career, which later included stints in the major leagues with the Washington Senators and Cincinnati Reds, his numbers weren’t significant enough to get him into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Today, however, a campaign led by baseball researcher Steve Sandy hopes to get Hoy in the Hall of Fame for reasons that go beyond batting averages and home runs.

Hoy was deaf and — Sandy and others believe — he introduced the concept of baseball umpires using hand signals to call balls and strikes.

Sandy started his research on Hoy in 1989. Now, 58 years after Hoy’s death, Sandy believes he is getting close to cementing Hoy’s legacy for what he brought to the baseball and the deaf communities.

“His personality allowed him to break that barrier,” said Sandy, who also is deaf. “It’s important for history to be able to recognize that it was Hoy that opened the baseball world that anyone could play baseball.”

From Ohio to Oshkosh

Hoy was born on May 23, 1862, in the rural northwest Ohio town of Houcktown. At 3 years old, he contracted meningitis, leaving him deaf.

Hoy graduated from the Ohio School for the Deaf in 1879 and, while working as a shoemaker in his 20s, he would play baseball with the local children.

He was known by everyone as “Dummy” — a term historically used to describe people who could not speak. Today such a nickname would be offensive, but Hoy corrected those who did not call him Dummy, including reporters and teammates. Before 1945, Sandy said, 15 deaf baseball players referred to themselves as Dummy.

Hoy was also a gifted baseball player.

“He was quiet, but his performance was out of this world because he was able to catch things that hearing people could not catch while playing baseball,” Sandy said in interviews conducted through an interpreter.

Hoy could not hear the manager or teammates yelling at him. He couldn’t hear the crack of the bat, but he knew which way to run.

“Hoy had the intuition to know where the ball was going to go,” Sandy said.

On June 19, 1889, Hoy — a center fielder — threw out three runners at home plate trying to score from second base. He is just one of three outfielders to accomplish this in a single game, according to the Society for American Baseball Research.

Hoy is believed to have tried out for the Milwaukee baseball team in 1885. Some research points to 1886 as the year of Hoy’s Milwaukee tryout.

“First, he went to Milwaukee to try out for that team,” said Gary Kaschak, a former Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter who is working on a book about Hoy. “That was when he was rudely booted away for asking for more money. He then hopped on a train and went to Oshkosh.”

In 1886, the 24-year-old Hoy made the Oshkosh team. Well-known Oshkosh resident Edgar Sawyer started the minor league baseball team with other businessmen that year.

The Northwestern League featured teams from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In 1886, the Milwaukee Brewers were one of the eight teams in the league, along with Wisconsin cities Oshkosh, La Crosse and Eau Claire, according to baseball-reference.com.

“Baseball was so huge back then,” Kaschak said. “It was post-Civil War, 20 years out, and baseball was springing out across the country everywhere. There were semi-pro leagues. Baseball captivated the American audience.

“Hoy came about just at the right time when leagues were starting to form. It’s a strange dynamic. Big crowds were coming out. When you’re good, people notice. Oshkosh was kind of a springboard to the major leagues. There are so many mysteries about his beginnings there.”

When Sandy started researching Hoy in 1989, he said he was the only one looking for more information on Hoy — and it was limited information. A scrap of paper here, a newspaper clipping there, and soon Sandy began collecting binders full of information on Hoy.

Sandy is recognized as a leading researcher on Hoy and has helped authors and film makers with several productions on Hoy. His current project is a Da-Cor Productions movie, directed by Hollywood filmmaker David Risotto, that will come out in April 2019 called “The Silent Natural.”

The film, which Risotto called an underdog story, will predominantly focus on Hoy’s childhood and time in Oshkosh. Risotto hopes he can bring the film to Wisconsin.

Frank Selee managed Oshkosh in 1887, one year after Hoy joined the team. Oshkosh won the Northwestern League pennant that year — a shock to the Milwaukee club. Selee would go on to manage the Boston Beaneaters (1890–1901) and the Chicago Cubs (1902–1905), and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

In Hoy's second year with the Oshkosh baseball team, Oshkosh won the Northwestern League pennant. According to the Oshkosh Public Museum, Hoy is in the front row, first person on the left.

In Hoy’s second year with the Oshkosh baseball team, Oshkosh won the Northwestern League pennant. According to the Oshkosh Public Museum, Hoy is in the front row, first person on the left. (Photo: Courtesy of the Oshkosh Public Museum)

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Deaf, visually impaired man to champion Stoughton transportation iniquities

Randall Dewitt approached the microphone with a woman standing by his side. But he did not need a microphone at the Jan. 8 Stoughton selectmen’s meeting to make a compelling argument to be appointed to the commission on disabilities.

Dewiitt, 36, is deaf and visually impaired. He used American Sign Language to communicate. His mother, Karen Duke, signed and spoke for him.

“My name is Randall Dewitt,” he said. “I have a condition called Usher syndrome. I am deaf, and I am going blind.”

Dewitt said he wanted to apply for a vacant seat on the commission because he wanted to improve public transportation for people with disabilities, particularly those who are hearing and visually impaired.

“I also want to see if I can get better services for deaf and deaf-blind people,” he said.

He mentioned challenges that most people would not even consider in part of their daily travels.

“It is very hard to get around here,” Dewitt said. “I live on School Street, but part of the street doesn’t have sidewalks, and it is a curvy road. As a blind person, it is really difficult.”

Riding the MBTA is even more difficult, especially without braille or without being able to hear the bell for stops.

“Also, I want to go to the Y, where I teach sign language classes,” he said. “Sometimes I have to ask my mother to take me.”

In addition, the commuter rail service from Stoughton to downtown Boston is spotty, sometimes only running once every two hours, Dewitt noted.

“That is the first thing I would like to change,” he said. “On Sunday, it doesn’t even run. I have to ask my mother to drive me to Sharon just to go downtown.”

“But on Saturdays, it is only open until 2 p.m., and on Sundays, it is closed.

“We need more choices, more flexible schedules, more options,” Dewitt said.

Selectmen were moved by his testimony and his desire to improve services not only for the disability community but for Stoughton as a whole.

“Your application tells a lot about your enthusiasm to serve,” Chair Bob O’Regan said.

He asked if Dewitt would be willing to serve in the vacant three-year seat rather than the one year opening, and he agreed.

Selectman Christine Howe agreed that a three-year term would suit Dewitt.

“It’s great to have you apply,” she said. “You have a very valuable perspective.”

Vice Chair Michael Sullivan suggested that Dewitt consider becoming involved in the MBTA’s advisory board for people with disabilities, now called the Riders’ Transportation Access Group (R-TAG), as well as its counterpart in the Brockton Area Transit Authority (BAT) system.