The Deaf Education Pinball


The challenges Deaf children encounter in the educational system are a recurring theme in De’VIA. Drawing both on individual memories as well as referencing historical events, the artists represent the struggles experienced between such conflicting traditions as oralism–mandating oral communication skills–and learning to communicate manually with fingerspelling or in American Sign Language.

The idea for Deaf Education Pinball first occurred to Johnston when he imagined a Deaf child as a pinball ricocheting off the confusing options the educational system posed for Deaf children. The artist captures the essence of the experience in this imaginary pinball game that labels the complexities faced by Deaf children and their parents. The largest is English, flanked by VR (Vocational Rehabilitation) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income) which channel children down a cochlea-shaped spiral that removes them from the game. Only if Deaf children successfully navigate to the bottom are they offered services promised by the ADA—the Americans with Disabilities Act—the legislation that ensures accommodations commensurate with a child’s educational needs, such as an education in ASL, positioned at the very bottom right of the game.


Paul Johnson


The Deaf Education Pinball






The artwork itself is a pinball board with many different images of Deaf Culture. It has many different colors, purple, blue, red, yellow, orange, green, white, pink, tan, black, and gray. On the top, there are two eyes with the letter, "D" between the eyes. The hole is below "D" that is where orange and green balls with the letter "D" can enter. On the right side, there are two letters "M" and "C" with two holes below. One blue ball with the letter "d" goes into the hole under "M." One green ball with the letter "D" goes into the hole under "C." On the bottom of right side, it has an pink and tan ear. On the bottom, it has two red lips with the letter "d" between and it has a hole below "d." One green ball with the letter, "d" goes into the hole under "d." On the left side, there are two shapes of a star and seven with an ear between. There is a finger from the hole that is below "7" hooking an orange ball with the letter "d." There is tongue sticking out from the hole that is below a star and grabbing a blue ball with the letter "d." Also, there is another tongue that is next to the star. In the center, there is so many different objects; pencils, balls, hands, people, shoes and cashes. Also, there are some words around in the center, "English," "VR," "SSI," ADA," "ASL," and "504,"


Paul Johnson and He/His/Him, “The Deaf Education Pinball,” RIT/NTID Dyer Arts Center , accessed June 24, 2024,