PBS Kids Enhances Programming with ASL Interpreters for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Viewers

PBS Kids has enhanced the accessibility of their programming by introducing American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters to sixty episodes across six popular children’s series – ArthurAlma’s WayDaniel Tiger’s NeighborhoodDonkey HodieWork It Out Wombats!, and Pinkalicious & Peterrific. This initiative, launched on April 18, aims to cater specifically to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers, ensuring they too can enjoy and engage with the shows. The implementation follows a collaborative effort with entities like GBH Kids and Fred Rogers Productions, enhancing existing features like closed captioning and adjusted game settings for neurodiverse children.

The integration of ASL interpreters was carefully planned through partnerships with organizations such as Bridge Multimedia and the Described and Captioned Media Program, who helped PBS Kids connect directly with the deaf community. Extensive research guided decisions on the user interface, such as the placement and visibility of the ASL interpreters within the video player. This research included feedback from diverse groups within the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, ensuring the solutions met a broad range of needs.

The image is a webpage from the PBS Kids digital platform featuring a section titled "AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE". There's a notice stating that ASL is provided by Bridge Multimedia and The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) with funding from the US Department of Education. Below this, there are thumbnails for episodes of the children’s shows "Alma's Way" and "Arthur", each marked with an ASL icon to indicate the availability of sign language interpretation. The thumbnails are labeled with episode titles such as "No-Go Mofongo/Alma vs. Eddie" for "Alma's Way" and have timestamps indicating their duration, which is approximately 23 to 27 minutes. The design is bright and colorful, aimed at a young audience, with clear indicators of new content and accessibility features.
The image is a screenshot from the PBS Kids website featuring the show "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood". It displays an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter in the foreground on the right, wearing a coral-colored top and smiling while signing. The background shows an animated scene from the show with the characters on a stage, framed by a colorful, storybook-like design with the caption "And then we're going to learn a dance to do with our song!" The PBS Kids, Games, and Videos icons are visible at the top, and the WTTW logo is in the top right corner. The layout is vibrant and child-friendly, aimed at combining visual storytelling with ASL to make the content accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Moving forward, PBS Kids intends to continue refining this offering based on viewer feedback and further studies. The initial batch of sixty episodes is just the beginning, with plans to expand and adapt based on the engagement levels and preferences of the audience. This initiative is part of a broader commitment by PBS Kids to make their educational content accessible to all children, thereby fostering an inclusive environment where every child has the opportunity to learn and grow.

Understanding the Deaf Audience: Challenges and Considerations for Incorporating ASL in Media

If you or the organization you work for create video content for your audience, this initiative (and other similar ones) may encourage you to think about how you might incorporate ASL in your media. Among many factors, perhaps the first one to consider is understanding the needs of the deaf audience which requires a blend of specialized research, community engagement, and careful planning. Conducting research to understand this audience typically involves qualitative methods like focus groups and interviews, as well as user experience studies to test different ASL presentation styles and technologies. It’s crucial for content creators to work closely with members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities to gather insights and feedback on the effectiveness of ASL integration.

For independent content creators or smaller organizations, adding ASL interpreters to videos presents both challenges and opportunities. The main challenges include the financial cost of hiring qualified ASL interpreters and potentially increased production time. Hiring professional interpreters can be costly, with rates varying based on the interpreter’s experience and the length of the production. Additionally, the technical requirements—such as ensuring the interpreter is clearly visible and effectively integrated into the video—can increase complexity and production costs.

However, there are ways to manage these challenges. Creators can seek funding through grants specifically aimed at improving accessibility, or they could consider partnerships with organizations dedicated to serving the deaf community, which might offer resources or cost-sharing opportunities. To recruit ASL interpreters, creators can contact professional associations or services that offer interpreting services. Networking within the deaf community and at events can also be valuable in finding interpreters who are interested in media projects. By investing in these efforts, creators not only make their content more inclusive but also broaden their audience reach.

Here’s an insightful interview with Melissa Malzkuhn, third-generation Deaf and the founder and director of the Motion Light Lab at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.Her lab is creating ASL-focused children’s media that is made by and for the Deaf community.

Source: Fast Company

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