Deaf-blind actor breaks barriers

Robert Tarango speaks through a sign language interpreter. The 55-year-old was born deaf and has lost nearly all his sight over the past 30 years. Despite his difficulty communicating, he's proving dreams do come true.

"When I was young I always wanted to become an actor so badly," he said. "It was a dream of mine." 

The cafeteria assistant became a movie star overnight after getting cast as the lead role in the short film Feeling Through.

"I was so overwhelmed and it was the first time in my life I said the deaf-blind can do it," Tarango said. "They really can." 

Director Doug Roland focuses on making films about people who are forgotten or overlooked. He turned to the Helen Keller National Center on Long Island to cast a deaf-blind man after he was inspired by his own encounter. Feeling Through is a coming-of-age film about the unlikely connection between a teen in need and a deaf-blind man.

Tarango is said to be the first deaf-blind actor in a featured movie role. 

"There are not deaf blind actors portraying deaf blind characters in the media," Roland said. "That's the whole reason we're standing here today because we want to tell the story accurately and authentically." 

"So my vision is very tunneled," Tarango said. "I see in this tiny little box. For my peripheral vision, it's pretty much black. I have little flashes of light. At night time I can't see anything." 

The Helen Keller National Center provides training for approximately 100 deaf-blind individuals a year to gain skills to live independently and be successfully employed. 

"I've seen how this film and opportunity opened doors for the community and Robert," said Sue Ruzenski, the executive director of the Helen Keller National Center. "It empowered him and gave him such great joy." 

Robert hopes to continue a career in film.

"I'm going to put myself out there and get involved with other movies," he said. "Whether it's drama or I'm up for a horror movie or really any movie." 


Instagram: @feelingthrough


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