Sign Language Captions for Disney+ Launch In The UK

British Sign Language (BSL) users can now view select films in their first language on Disney+, thanks to an innovative new app, SignUp.

SignUp was created by 18-year-old Mariella Satow during lockdown after she started to learn American Sign Language (ASL). After searching for signed content online, she found very little available and set out to change this.

The teenager, who has dual citizenship in the United Kingdom and United States, worked with the Deaf community to create a service which provides better media-accessibility.

Using money from her dog walking job, Mariella hired a developer to create a Google Chrome Extension that overlays a sign language interpreter via a pop-up window.

This is particularly useful for young Deaf children who are not able to read closed captions, or read them fast enough, and they have been able to engage with films properly for the very first time.

Mariella decided to focus her efforts first on the Disney+ platform and following huge success in the US, she is now launching the application in the UK, with the help of leading sensory loss charity, DSN (formerly Deafness Support Network).

DSN, based in Cheshire, has worked with Mariella to help recruit and audit highly-skilled BSL interpreters to upload their interpretation of films for the British audience.

Dr Littlejohn, who leads research and education at DSN, said: “This is an amazing opportunity for a regional charity like DSN to get involved in something truly innovative that will make waves across the nation.”

With the help of a Deaf colleague and lead BSL lecturer, Lisa Birtles from DSN, the app now offers three films on the Disney+ UK platform, including Moana and Toy Story.

With more films scheduled to be signed by a growing list of BSL interpreters, Mariella says the opportunities for expansion are 'tremendous' for SignUp UK.

“We are thrilled to have the support of a much-respected organisation, like DSN,” said Mariella. “We have started with Disney+ as I think that is most popular with children, but we have plans to create the same for Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming services.

"It is going to be very exciting to see SignUp UK  assist the Deaf community here, in the same way as it has in the US over the last year.”

“With the passing of the BSL Bill in April,  the heightened significance of the use of BSL thanks to Rose Ayling-Ellis, and innovations such as the 999 BSL app launching this year, accessibility for the deaf community and in particular BSL users is at an all-time premium,” said David Horrocks, CEO of DSN.

“Mariella’s app has been the envy of the deaf community around the world - it’s a truly unique concept and something that could be rolled out to the 300 sign languages used across the globe.

"We are honoured to be helping her launch in the UK and we look forward to seeing the reaction of children, young and old, when they view family favourite films in their own language for the first time. It will be magical!”