Alaqua Cox and child getting their photo taken at the Echo premier doing the ASL sign for "I love you".
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21 May 2024

Deaf amputee and Marvel star, Alaqua Cox, is a modern hero on and offscreen.

Key points.

  • Alaqua Cox stars in Marvel’s ‘Echo’ as the first deaf and Indigenous lead, breaking new ground for representation in mainstream media.
  • Drawing from her personal experiences with disability, Cox brings depth and authenticity to her character, Echo, who navigates trauma and heritage.
  • Marvel adapted the Echo character to include Cox’s prosthetic leg, promoting inclusivity and challenging industry norms around physical disability.
  • The production set a new standard for inclusivity, employing a deaf acting coach and Choctaw representatives, and encouraging the crew to learn sign language.


Alaqua Cox is capturing the spotlight in the Marvel universe with her lead role in the Disney+ series, ‘Echo’. As a Menominee/Mohican actress who is both deaf and an amputee, her portrayal of the classic anti-hero offers a unique perspective.

The term ‘anti-hero’ describes the main character in a story who exhibits unconventional traits that set them apart from traditional superheroes. This week at Leap in! HQ, we’re celebrating Alaqua’s significant contributions to enhancing diversity in entertainment.


A heroic moment for representation.

Representation has often been lacking in the film and television industry. ‘Echo’ is the first series to cast a deaf and Indigenous actress in a lead role which makes Alaqua’s success in the production a landmark moment in Hollywood.

Through her portrayal of Echo, Alaqua is proud to be able to shine a spotlight on Indigenous, deaf and disability representation in mainstream media. She says, “[Echo] is a person of colour. She’s Indigenous. She’s deaf and an amputee. I’m so grateful to be able to bring her to life. I wish I had that kind of representation growing up.”

As Echo takes viewers on a journey of self-discovery, resilience and empowerment, Alaqua is eager to use her platform to inspire change and pave the way for a more inclusive and representative entertainment industry.


Every hero has an origin story.

The storyline follows the main character, Maya Lopez AKA Echo, as she fights against her enemies and reconnects with her Choctaw heritage to overcome the trauma she faced as a young girl.

To bring the character to life Alaqua tapped into her own childhood experiences.

Alaqua was raised on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin where there was limited supports and services available to people with disability. While Alaqua never had to face a villainous mob-boss like her Marvel character, she was faced with obstacles in everyday life.

She shares, “I grew up in hospitals having surgeries for my leg and spent a lot of time in a wheelchair. I had to relearn how to walk. So we both have our own childhood trauma.”

In addition to the practical struggles of everyday life, it was also difficult for Alaqua to find her place in her community. The school she attended as a young girl had no classes for American Sign Language and no awareness of deaf culture. “I got bullied for being deaf and an amputee,” Alaqua shares, “I would complain, but the district wouldn’t listen.”

Despite the hurdles she’s faced, Alaqua remains determined to make a difference, both on and off the screen.


The evolution of Echo.

In film and television, actors typically transform to become the character they play; however the on-screen portrayal of Echo is partly inspired by Alaqua herself.

Echo features in several comic books but her first live action appearance is in Marvel’s 2021 blockbuster ‘Hawkeye’.

The casting call was for a deaf, Indigenous person. A friend sent Alaqua the casting call but she thought that, as an amputee, she would be overlooked for the role. It took several people to convince Alaqua to audition for the role.

“I figured [Marvel] probably didn’t want an amputee woman, because you [rarely] see amputees on TV,” Alaqua says.

Not only was Alaqua cast as Echo, the entire backstory for the character was rewritten to include her prosthetic lower right leg.

“I’m so happy that the amputee community can now say that we have an amputee superhero. I want them to know that their dreams should not have limitations and that they don’t have to ‘fix’ themselves.”


A gold standard for inclusivity on set.

The Marvel team saw beyond what made Alaqua different from Echo and adapted the role to accommodate the talented actor. Once production started more steps were taken behind the scenes to make sure the production was as accessible, inclusive and authentic.

A deaf acting coach and a deaf personal trainer were hired to help Alaqua with her performance and stunt training. Choctaw representatives were present on set to ensure the Indigenous language used throughout Echo was spoken correctly.

The team working with Alaqua took the initiative to learn basic sign language in order to make it easier for everyone to communicate effectively without the need to rely on interpreters.

Alaqua shares, “In the coming years, I want to see roles with disabilities played by people with disabilities. I’m also hoping that people on other sets ask cast members what they can do to improve and make them more comfortable, like they did for me. It feels like we are going in the right direction and I’m hoping that becomes the gold standard.”

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