You may know him as the third place winner of the 14th season of “The Amazing Race”. The first Deaf participant in the show’s history and the youngest gay participant to make it to the final three, he teamed up with his mother, Margie, to be a reality show globe trotter.

His parents dis-covered Luke was Deaf when he was about one month old. On July 4th, the family attended an Independence Day celebration. “My mom first realized it when all the other babies woke up, startled and crying, from the fireworks display. I didn’t react at all.” Adams explains.

“We received positive feedback from so many people, and especially from the Deaf community, that was very supportive."

Adapting to unique challenges

His family was quick to explore their options. His mother studied Signed Exact English to ease early communication, and both parents took up American Sign Language after Adams enrolled in a school for Deaf students. “...I am so grateful that they did as later on I learned that many hearing parents of Deaf children do not know sign language,” Adams says. “I was glad my parents made the effort and as a result we are able to communicate effortlessly.”

A personal journey

Adams was also fitted with a cochlear implant at a young age, which thrust him into the world of speech therapy. “This was an intense time and required a lot of dedication,” he says. “It was also at a time where issues around speaking, signing, and identity were dividing the Deaf community. “I struggled with my identity. A pivotal time was when I was 14 years old; I decided for me, I was Deaf, and my mother supported me.”

Adams attended the Rochester Institute of Technology, first in Information Technology, then Criminal Justice, graduating with his degree in 2007. Following his Amazing Race success, he is also the honorary chair of CHS Quest - an accessible smartphone-based scavenger hunt and CHS’s annual fundraising event - this May across Ontario.

Conquering the small screen and beyond

His love of “The Amazing Race” started with the first season. Intrigued by the challenges, locations and strategies, he never missed a season. Luke asked his mom about forming a team and applying to go on the show. Despite initial rejection, the team persevered, finally receiving a callback in March 2008, and were flown to Los Angeles for casting interviews.

“During the casting interviews many of the teams were talking to each other, but I decided I did not want to sign in front of them. It wasn’t until the final selection process when the producers came with an interpreter to make the announcement of who was going to be on the show that the other team members realized I was Deaf!”

A special bond

Being on the show helped foster the bond between Adams and his mother. He recalls a challenge in China when she experienced newfound understanding of his world. “She said she felt so isolated when everyone around her was speaking a foreign language and she was not able to understand or participate; she said she really felt left out. That experience was a takeaway for her and of course it brought us even closer.”

The impact of their relationship on viewers was overwhelming. Emails poured in from many who said they were moved by Margie’s ability to sign. Other comments came from parents who wished they could sign with their children. “We received positive feedback from so many people, and especially from the Deaf community, that was very supportive.

They celebrated her efforts of communicating with me.” Adams is proud to have conveyed the message that Deaf people can do anything. “I think being on the show, we were able to highlight all the possibilities of what Deaf people can do. But it was also the impact my mom had on hearing parents of Deaf kids that was really strong.”