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‘The Simpsons’ to feature deaf actors, American Sign Language for the first time

Television's longest-running animated show will feature American Sign Language and deaf voice actors for the first time in its 31-year run on Sunday.

The characters in "The Simpsons" only have four fingers, but that doesn't stop them from using American Sign Language for the first time in the show's 31-year history in an upcoming episode.

Television's longest-running animated series also used deaf voice actors for the first time in its 722-episode run, according to Variety.

Lisa meets Monk, who is voiced by deaf performer John Autry II.
Lisa meets Monk, who is voiced by deaf performer John Autry II. 20th Television

The ground-breaking episode that will air on April 10 was spearheaded by show writer Loni Steele Sosthand, whose brother, Eli Steele, is deaf. Steele voices a part in the episode along with deaf performers John Autry II, Kathy Buckley, Ian Mayorga, Kaylee Arellano and Hazel Lopez, according to Variety.

“An episode that makes me smile whenever I think about it,” showrunner Al Jean tweeted.

Sunday's episode involves Lisa Simpson finding out that her saxophone mentor, Bleeding Gums Murphy, a jazz musician who died in season six of the show, has a son named Monk who was born deaf. Lisa meets Monk, voiced by Autry, and helps him with his goal of getting a cochlear implant.

"It’s so incredible,” Autry told Variety. “It’s life-changing equality and participation. This can impact change for all of us. It’s about hard of hearing and hearing characters coming together. It’s a part of history.”

The characters also use ASL despite missing a digit on their animated hands.

“That was a little tricky, especially because the one thing we’re translating is Shakespeare,” Sosthand told Variety. “But I think we pulled it off.”

The historic episode, which is titled "The Sound of Bleeding Gums," comes after the movie "CODA" won Best Picture at last week's Academy Awards.

"CODA," which stands for "Child of Deaf Adults," depicts the struggles and conflict in a mostly deaf family whose hearing daughter is aiming for a career in music rather than going into the family fishing business.

Jean tweeted on Thursday that "The Simpsons" already had the episode in the works before the triumphant moment for "CODA" at the Oscars.

The social media app Snapchat also announced on Tuesday that a team of deaf engineers led a project to create a tool that helps users learn ASL by practicing fingerspelling through an augmented reality Lens.