#DeafSuccess: Carlisle Robinson, Cartoonist

Jun 24, 2021

Carlisle Robinson is a #deaf #trans #nonbinary Cartoonist working on Deafverse, a choose-your-own-adventure online game created just for deaf teenagers. In their #DeafSuccess story, Carlisle explains how deafness influences their art, the impact of intersectional identities, and how mental health resources that include all of these identities are still needed for the deaf community. Carlisle uses their art to educate and to normalize accessibility everywhere, showing that success is based on your impact on the world, including how much love and passion one is able to share.

Full video description: https://tinyurl.com/49xt674s

Video Description:

 Carlisle, white person with almost shoulder length brown hair parted down the middle, wearing a black T-shirt and brown rimmed glasses sits in front of a blank white wall with the bottom edge of a painting over their right shoulder. Carlisle begins signing.


After I was done with my grad program I had a tough time finding work.  I sent out about 40 different job applications. I never once got a response, no matter a huge corporation or a small business it made no difference. It was quite disappointing.


Then someone recommended I take my art portfolio, which is digital and online and remove any mention of deaf or deafness. Eliminate it completely, they suggested. I didn’t feel like I could do that because it’s such a big part of who I am. So big that it impacts my art, who knows what my art would even look like if I were not deaf. I may not even be an artist, who knows?


Video Description:

Image of a cartoon version of Carlisle Robinson wearing blue and green warrior clothing and with a mythical-looking cat on their shoulder. Carlisle holds a pen and notepad. On their belt are 4 Poke balls of various colors.

Now, the real Carlisle adjusts the camera pointed at them and then sits back in a lime green high-back office chair in front of their computer, the desk lined with succulents, wearing an olive T-shirt and olive rimmed glasses. Carlisle is holding a pen in their right hand, smiling, beginning work focused on their computer.

Black and white drawn images of DeafVerse ‘Revenge of the Deep’ rapidly appear as a time lapse drawing.  The scene is the cover image of National Deaf Center Deafverse comic book.  People on 4 boats surround a larger pirate ship headed their way. The timelapse shows Carlisle’s creation of the ship’s sails and people on board.

The scene changes to a 3-panel color comic strip with two Deafverse human characters, one wearing a lab coat and goggles, adjusting CatBot’s ear.  The other person looks on with surprise. Next, a 2-panel comic strip inside a school, looking over the shoulder of a person wearing a backpack with CatBot hidden inside.

Now, a cartoon image of 7 Revenge of the Deep characters, looking at an open book with light emitting from the pages. The camera pans up to an evil-appearing cat robot.

Carlisle is back on screen and begins signing.


I work on Deafverse as a cartoonist. My job is to coalesce the team’s ideas and storylines into character design then sketch it out and bring it all to life.

Video Description:

A split screen of Photoshop, the larger image on the left, and more detailed close-up on the right.  A red and grey lighthouse in front of a setting yellow sun.  In the water tentacles and eyes emerge. Boats are racing toward the lighthouse. The view zooms in and rapidly changes shade, as details are added in a timelapse drawing.


I don’t only identify as deaf. I have many other identities, I’m trans, queer, non-binary, which means I don’t identify as any gender, male, female or any other genders.  I also have anxiety and depression thus all those parts of my identity have made my experience unique and more challenging not only in the hearing world but in the deaf world as well.

 Especially with a mental health diagnosis, it’s tough to diagnose a deaf person because guidance is lacking. I mean, symptoms present very differently in a deaf person than how they present in a hearing person and some symptoms can even show up in your sign language use, a hearing non-signing medical professional would completely miss it.


In terms of barriers in the hearing world within the mental health and queer extent are that people, mainly therapists, are not too familiar with and or not qualified to provide support to folks who may be deaf+queer or conversely folks who may be deaf+mental health and then there are those who are both.  


It is definitely a challenge finding a therapist and even when one thinks they’ve found a therapist, there could always be drawbacks where it’s just not a good fit. The longer therapy goes on it feels like a deeper sense of self-awareness is developed then one also becomes resistant.

At this point, perhaps I’d have a deeper understanding of my mental health and queer identity if I had more resources earlier, maybe!

Video Description:

A comic style drawing of five graduates in cap and gowns with a banner “Congratulations Class of 2020! “ above their heads. The background is a pastel rainbow. Left to right: a black man wearing glasses and a hearing aid, in a black gown with gold honor cords draped around his neck, in front of a mountain range. Next, a light skinned brown woman in an electric wheelchair, wearing a green cap and gown with leis around her neck, holding her diploma. To the right of her, a white woman wearing a black gown, stands in front of a building holding her cap that reads “WE DID IT” and signing I love you. Next is a brown man wearing a blue cap and gown standing in front of a desert and a dog jumping up to lick his face. Last, a woman in a hijab with a black cap and gown and gold honor cords holding a paintbrush stands in front of trees.

Now back to Carlisle.


My goal is to show and normalize accessibility everywhere! To highlight how it can be done.


Originally, I wanted to work in the field of Deaf Education as a teacher but along the way I realized that I can still teach youth, specifically deaf youth through my art.

 Video Description:

A comic style drawing depicting a bald man with brown skin and a goatee signing ‘sorry’ to a young woman, seemingly his daughter, who looks very sad. A small brown dog looks on with a sad expression. An image in a speech bubble above the young woman shows a scene earlier that day of the family sitting at the table, the man and two others, talking and laughing, while she sits frowning, question marks surrounding her.

 Another comic appears depicting three smiling black people, two of them are hearing, attempting to interact with a young lady who is Deaf. They are offering to communicate using a cell phone, a paper and pencil or by lip reading.

 A third drawing appears showing a light-skinned brown person wearing a hoodie, hearing aid and glasses pushed up in frustration. Multiple question marks surround him as he’s sitting at his desk in front of his computer with a speech bubble showing a hearing professor talking. The banner in the top right corner reads: “Overwhelmed with online classes + accessibility?”

Another drawing of two white people trying to interact. The top shows a young man speaking and the young woman confused and not understanding. Below she shows him The ASL app, Lifprint.com, ASL Connect, and SignASL.org on her phone; they are now both smiling.

Another drawing of four people, seemingly a Muslim family, each using ASL. The bearded man on the far left is signing ‘decide’, the woman beside him wears a hijab and green shirt. She is signing ‘act’ , the young woman to her left, wearing a pink hijab and pink sweater, signs ‘believe.’ The older gentleman with grey hair and beard steadies himself on a cane and wears a hearing aid. He’s signing with an open palm facing up.

A final drawing fades in with CatBot zooming across the top with a long rainbow banner cape flying behind him. Colorful confetti falls from the sky.  A black person with pink cropped hair wears a rainbow mask and yellow earrings. They sign “Happy.”  A white person sits in a wheel chair holding a transgender pride flag and wearing a pink mask with a clear panel, revealing their wide smile. They are signing “Pride.”  The third person stands smiling with black curly pigtails and shaved temples.  They are wearing a heart-covered mask and signing “Month”.


My view of DeafSuccess is that one leaves the world a better place than what it was when we arrived.

I don’t feel success is defined by the job one holds, how much one earns, or by how many material things one can amass. Those do not define success.

 Success is defined by one’s actions and how much love and passion one is able to share with the world.

 Video Description:

A black and white still shot of Carlile sitting at their desk lined with succulents, wearing a T-shirt and glasses. There is a teal banner reading #DeafSuccess across the front of the shot.

A color cartoon drawing appears with the words ‘ Believe in yourself’ across the top.  A black female judge wearing a robe, holding a gavel, is on a TV screen with the hashtag #DeafSuccess above her head. A young woman smiles, showing the braces on her teeth.  She’s in a wheelchair, holding a mallet and looking at the judge with admiration.

Video Description:

NDC Logo appears above text, black lettering on a white background: nationaldeafcenter.org

“This video was developed under a jointly-funded grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) #HD326D160001. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the federal government.”

Next to it, three logos appear. The first reads “IDEAs that Work” with an arrow drawing a circle from “IDEAs” to “Work” and the words “U.S. Office of Special Education Programs”. The second logo shows a red-and-blue star with text next to it that reads “TA&D”. The third logo shows a blue circle around a tree. In the blue circle are the words “U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.”

End of Accessibility Document

Subtitles available in English and Spanish | Subtítulos disponibles en español y inglés

Watch more Deaf Success stories: https://tinyurl.com/y3gkhtjw

How to support deaf youth through mentoring and role models: click here.

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© National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes
Video licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International

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Topic(s): #DeafSuccess
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