A Rugby School student has created a Google Chrome Extension which provides on-screen American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation alongside children’s films on Disney+.
“SignUp” enables a viewer to stream a film on TV and, simultaneously, a small pop-up window will appear with an interpreter signing. Users can download the free-of-charge app by searching “SignUp” in the Google Chrome Extension store.
Mariella Satow, 17, launched the extension last month. Since then, thousands of parents of deaf children have used it and shared their appreciation of the technology that enables full access to a film for the first time for their young children, especially those who cannot yet read.
Mariella, who has dual UK/US citizenship and lives in New York, has been studying remotely with her Rugby School teachers since March 2020 due to the pandemic and the continuing difficulty of travel between the US and the UK. She is taking Maths, economics, Spanish and English Literature at A-level next summer.
“I have been learning ASL online for a year now,” said Mariella, “and realised early on how much it could help deaf children to enjoy films more fully. Many children who use sign language face challenges with reading, which makes written captions inaccessible. I have always been interested in languages and communication and fell in love with signing immediately. I like how it combines words and physicality.”
“I was overwhelmed by the response which highlighted the poor standard of written captions on films and, in some cases, the absence of any captions at all. Parents told me they had to sit next to their children and sign entire films for them,” said Mariella.
“Since I launched SignUp, I have heard from teachers who are now using the extension in their classrooms and arranging movie nights for their students. I have had such an amazing reaction to the idea and received so many touching emails about the difference it has made already.”
Using money she made from dog-walking during the pandemic, Mariella employed Softpulse Infotech, a company based in India, to help her devise a coding system that could overlay ASL interpretation on streaming platforms in sync with the selected movie.
In time, Mariella hopes SignUp will be a majority deaf-run initiative and, with funding, provide employment.
Gareth Parker-Jones, head of Rugby School, said service and helping others is at the core of a Rugby education. “We are working hard to facilitate the equitable approaches which will maximise the impact of inclusion and this is a great example of that, when the difficulties of deafness can be overlooked by society. It is wonderful to see Mariella using skills she has developed during the challenging period of the pandemic to assist others. We are very proud of her drive, vision and most importantly her commitment to service.”