Rewriting the Narrative as the First Black Deaf-Blind Journalist
Steven McCoy has made history as the first black deaf-blind journalist in the world, as he was recently diagnosed with Usher syndrome after a lifelong struggle with hearing loss. Equipped with a passion for storytelling and advocacy, he now uses his voice to create lasting change within the entertainment industry and deaf-blind community.
By Simone Robinson
Steven McCoy is a groundbreaking journalist who continues to overcome all odds and pave the way for many others like him. Steven, who is the first black deaf-blind journalist in the world, has had a lengthy and complex journey with his condition. From the age of five, he began wearing hearing aids, which were initially written off as a result of a severe ear infection. It wasn’t until 2019, at the age of 30, when Steven received an official diagnosis of Usher syndrome.
“The challenges have been there a lot longer, but I just wasn’t aware,” recalls Steven. “I always blamed everything on my hearing. I didn’t realize I was losing my eyesight many years prior to my diagnosis in 2019.”
In the wake of a new diagnosis, Steven faced many challenges involving changes to his lifestyle, including the trajectory of his career in entertainment.
“It was different than what I was normally used to,” says Steven. “I moved out of my family’s home at 20 years old and was independent enough to take care of myself. So, after being diagnosed, it became a bit of a challenge for me to ask for help. I felt a shame to be in a vulnerable space, but through great faith, research, support, and finally, confidence, I was able to maintain my independence.”
Steven’s family has remained a huge support system for him as well as close friends and colleagues who were supportive during his vision loss journey.
“Sometimes we, as blind people, get caught up in our own thoughts of fear and feeling like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel,” says Steven. “But the people around you are also grieving as well. They just don’t know how to approach it, so we have to take the responsibility of learning what works for us.”
Following his diagnosis, Steven now faced a difficult decision regarding his career as a journalist. However, he found a silver lining due to the complete shift to virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic the following year. He was able to attend events from the comfort of his home, eliminating the anxiety of traveling to host events.
Steven quickly found solace in the community of others like him by connecting with the New Jersey Commission for the Blind, local rehabilitation councils, and numerous support groups.
“I realized that I was not alone, and I decided to be bold enough to tell the truth,” says Steven. “I used to hide my disability. I would take out my hearing aids and put them in my pockets as an adult, and as a child, I used to take them out and leave them on the playground."
"To this day, it’s not easy being a journalist who has to travel, and host red carpets, but it became easier once I gained the confidence to advocate for myself and express my needs," says Steven. "Before, my concern was about being an inconvenience to others, and that wasn’t being convenient to myself.”
Steven has since become an advocate for others in the deaf and visually impaired community, meeting with White House legislators to make important changes.
“I was able to meet other people through support groups, such as the Foundation Fighting Blindness, hear their concerns, and report that to the legislators to see if there were any changes we can make,” he says. “Last year, I was able to go speak at the Senate office. Through those conversations about things we need such as affordable hearing aids, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden administration were able to now have affordable hearing aids at places such as Walgreens and Rite Aid.”
Steven intends to continue making an impact through several entertainment projects in addition to his new roles serving as the board director of the Usher Syndrome Coalition and board member of Eyes Like Mine Inc. He will be appointed by the Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, as the Representative of Business and Industry for the New Jersey State Rehabilitation Council. He also extended the Sessions with Steven tour, traveling with numerous organizations to bring awareness among children and young adults regarding accessibility and overcoming their challenges.