A certified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter will be present during the 94th Academy Award ceremony’s official YouTube page, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In the 94 year history of the Oscars, there has never been a live stream for deaf or hard-of-hearing audiences. This interpreted live stream of the ceremony, which will be available on the Academy’s YouTube channel, will be free for anyone to access on their phone, tablet, or computer. The ASL feed will also be accessible through the website at Oscars.com.
The Academy Is Looking To Make The Oscars More Inclusive With ASL Interpreting
Although many TV screens come with closed captioning, they still inhibit deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences who may not be familiar with English, which bears a different grammatical structure and syntax to ASL, which historically has its roots in LSF (French Sign Language).
Jeanell English, VP of Impact and Operations, told THR that the organization is part of “a constant space and state of learning and growing” and under that they “can’t accomplish inclusion without prioritizing accessibility.”
“We’re not going to get everything right. We know that, but we ask, how can we continue to improve? Let’s keep pushing the boundaries and challenging and trying to create more access where we can,” English continued. “We’re proud of what we’ve done, but it’s not nearly enough and we are committed to continuing to do as much as we can in this journey.”
In addition to live captioning, they will also provide audio descriptions for blind and low vision Oscar viewers, which they first implemented during the 2021 live and socially distances Oscar ceremony.
Jeanell English Comments On The Number Of Deaf Nominees In This Year’s Ceremony
The increased interest in inclusion and accessibility comes from “CODA” as a Best Picture nominee. Troy Kotsur is widely considered a favorite to win the Best Supporting Actor for his role, after already scooping up a BAFTA, a Screen Actor’s Guild Award, and a Critics Choice Award. The Oscar win will make him the second Deaf actor and the first male Deaf actor to win an Academy Award behind costar Marlee Matlin, who was the first woman to win an Oscar in 1984 for “Children of a Lesser God.”
Despite the increased number of Deaf nominees in attendance, English said “not anything differently” when asked if they had done anything to extend accessibility to the nominees at the actual ceremony. English instead focused on the increased amount of accessibility extended to viewers at home.
“ABC does provide a captioned version of the show for viewers at home and that’s been standard and it’s consistent for anyone accessing online on abc.com,” English said. “That is something ABC has really done and delivered.”
“One of the things that we also introduced last year was audio description,” she continued. “We got a lot of really great feedback by introducing that as an incredible tool and we’re continuing to offer it for the show this year.”
“Then the other piece — the new piece that we really added for this year that was from direct feedback and conversation we had from the Deaf community — was how can we start to embed ASL interpretation into the broadcast in some capacity,” she added. “So we are providing a YouTube feed in front of the paywall to support anyone who wants to watch and experience the show with an ASL interpreter.”
The Academy Still Has A Lot To Learn About Deaf Culture
“We’re really proud of what we’re doing here,” she said. “The ASL interpreters are incredible. We’re working with certified deaf interpreters this year who will be delivering that service on YouTube Live with the broadcast. It will be an incredible feature for anyone who wants to tune in and pull up that feed and watch the show with our interpreters.”
It should be noted that English’s terminology is probably due to an unfamiliarity with Deaf culture. There are certified Deaf interpreters – interpreters who are also Deaf – that usually work in medical and legal settings, where complicated jargon can inhibit clear communication. In this instance, it has been reported that a certified American Sign Language interpreter – a hearing individual – will be rendering the ceremony from English into ASL.
This slip shows that, despite the Oscars’ attempts towards increasing accessibility to Deaf audiences, the Academy still has much to learn.