They say that life imitates art. In Matt Daigle’s case, the opposite is true. A professional graphic artist and cartoonist who is profoundly deaf, Daigle draws what he knows: family, deafness, and the daily grind of making a living.
A native of San Antonio, Texas, Daigle, 38, is the only person in his family with hearing loss. He tried wearing hearing aids as a child but realized no benefit from them, so he became proficient at American Sign Language and learned to lipread, write notes, and even talk when communicating with non-signers.
Daigle attended National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y., for two years because his parents felt it was important that he attend a college for the deaf. There he met his wife, Kay, a certified ASL interpreter, in a deaf theater class. The couple moved to South Dakota where Daigle earned a degree in advertising and graphic design.
In 2006, Daigle designed the winning concept for an International Breastfeeding Symbol, which is used to identify locations in public venues where women can comfortably breastfeed their infants. He says he was inspired by his wife nursing their son, Hayden, now 5. The design became an advocacy symbol when a mother was kicked off a plane in Vermont for nursing her child.
Daigle creates two cartoons that appear in SIGNews, a monthly print newspaper published by a nonprofit organization called Communication Service for the Deaf, based in South Dakota. “In Deaf Culture” appeals primarily to individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing (D/HH), interpreters, and the signing community. “That Deaf Guy” focuses on the daily challenges of a mixed-hearing young family.
There’s no mistaking the main characters of “That Deaf Guy” as anyone but Matt, Kay, and Hayden. Like Daigle, Desmond is a deaf cartoonist who, sometimes willingly, often unintentionally, but always good-naturedly, plays the role of tutor to the hearing on how to communicate with people who have hearing loss.
“It can be discouraging at times, but we somehow always seem to find the funny,” Daigle says. “Many hearing people send me e-mails telling me how they don’t know sign language but still get a kick out of ‘That Deaf Guy.’ Many of the themes we touch on—family and relationships—are universal, no matter if you can hear or not.”
Much like Desmond in “That Deaf Guy,” Daigle enjoys being a role model for deaf children. “Kids need to see deaf adults who are doing what they love and getting paid for it,” Daigle says. “I use my cartooning as my advocacy work. I feel the best way to overcome anything in your life is to find the humor in it.”