Mariella’s Story

My name is Mariella and I am a high school senior at boarding school in England.

I live in New York, and when the pandemic started and we went into lockdown, I started taking American Sign Language (ASL) lessons online. I have always been interested in languages and fell in love with ASL. I like how signing combines words and physicality.

I quickly saw a need within ASL. I found it difficult to find free and engaging learning resources. With more research, I discovered how limited certain media sites were for certain Deaf individuals, especially children. Take the case of television. Although there are subtitles, the fact that around half (43%) of deaf children do not reach the expected standard for reading by middle school means that written captions are inaccessible for them.

This past year, with the help of ASL experts and Deaf individuals, I have been working on a Google Chrome Extension, ‘SignUp’, which will provide on-screen ASL signing alongside children’s movies on Disney+. SignUp will enable a viewer to switch on a movie and, simultaneously, a small pop-up window will appear with an interpreter signing in ASL. The movies that are currently available are Moana, Zootopia, and The Incredibles. Frozen is coming soon!

The response to SignUp has been overwhelming since I launched it a couple of days ago. There have been thousands of visitors to the website, hundreds of likes on social media posts, and dozens of emails.

As SignUp grows, I want to expand to Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services. I aim to have many more movies and TV shows interpreted. I have had so many requests already! Most importantly, I want to have other sign languages provided. There have been numerous requests for an Auslan version, so I hope to launch in Australia later this year too.

We are looking for Auslan volunteers to launch SignUp in Australia later this year, so please reach out to [email protected] if you would like to be a part of the change!