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Football helmet for the Deaf and hard of hearing looks to level the playing field

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Washington, D.C., sportswriter Stephen Whyno, photographer Stephanie Scarbrough, social media producer Amira Borders and audio reporter Sagar Meghani explored a technological advance that changes the game for Deaf and hard-of-hearing football players.

Whyno got a first look at a helmet for the Deaf and hard of hearing developed by AT&T and Gallaudet University — the famed private institution in Washington for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. He and his colleagues turned it into an all-formats feature on the new technology, its potential applications beyond the playing field and the history behind Gallaudet and its contributions to the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. The story came via a public relations pitch. AT&T reached out to note they had worked with the school’s football team on a helmet that showed a coach’s play call in a tiny lens near a player’s eye.

It was a literal game-changer for the team, which had relied for decades on play calls via sign language from the sideline. Whyno attended practices and a game and then interviewed others on Gallaudet’s long history of being a cradle of innovation. Besides two text stories, he worked closely with photographer Stephanie Scarbrough, graphics artist Jake O’Connell, SNTV producer Davidde Corran and social media producer Amira Borders, who used Whyno’s iPhone video to create images for AP’s social platforms.

The story had over 33,000 page views on APNews and resonated well on social media, with over 125,000 views on X, formerly known as Twitter. It also had over 40 Newsroom views and was used by important customers like ABC and CBS.

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