Sign Language (Prerecorded)
Success Criterion 1.2.6 Level AAA


Are you providing prerecorded sign language videos for audio content in a media file?

Why is this important

Some users who are deaf or hard of hearing use sign language to understand video presentations that include audio. Sign language can also provide some advantages over written text found in captions:

  • Written text is a second language for users whose first language is sign language.
  • Sign language provides intonation, emotion, and other interpretation of text that may not be accurately expressed via written text.
  • People who communicate extensively in sign language may comprehend content in sign language faster and more accurately than when they are reading written text in captions.

Whom does it benefit?

Example 1:

As a person who is deaf and whose primary language is sign language,
I want to use pre-recorded sign language videos that interpret the English-language audio content in media tracks,
so that I can use my primary language to fully understand the content.

Example 2:

As a person who uses sign language, but struggles with lipreading,
I want to have access to sign language interpretations,
so that I follow along with my professor’s video presentations as she explains science experiments I am supposed to conduct.

What should you do?

Any content provided in audio-only or video-plus-audio formats should include sign language interpretations.

Things to consider:

  • For both video and audio media content, a full view of the sign language interpreter should be provided in a resolution where the sign language interpreter is clearly visible.
  • When video is streamed, a full view of the sign language interpreter should be provided in the corner or beside the video. Make sure there is a way to play the video stream in full screen mode. Otherwise, be sure the interpreter portion of the video is adjustable to the size it would have been if the entire video stream were full screen.

How do you do it?

Producing Quality Signed Video Assets

Producing quality signed video assets requires extensive planning and specialized skill sets. There are tasks related to defining and verifying customer requirements, talent acquisition, content management, and environmental controls.

Customer Requirements
  • Define and verify customer requirements through a signed scope of work.
  • Based on the scope of work, collaborate with the film vendor to develop a filming plan.
  • Prior to filming signed videos for inclusion into content, produce a sample video for the customer to review and approve for requirements related to signer attire, on-screen placement, the use of backdrop color and lighting, video quality, and other requirements defined by the customer.
Talent Acquisition
  • Contracts must be secured with a qualified film vendor that has expertise developing sign language videos.
  • Contract with a sign language interpreting agency to provide:
    • Certified native onscreen signers/interpreters (hearing or deaf) and;
    • Certified voice interpreters to assist with the quality control reviews of filmed material.
  • Signers are required to be familiar with content-specific terms and symbols associated with the content and be able to sign to academic standards.
Content Management
  • Develop scripts for pre-filming preparation and onsite use during filming.
  • Signers are expected to sign what is in the text without adding to the content, using slang, or using excessive finger spelling. For words that may be misunderstood, such as synonyms, homonyms, or words that use the same sign in different context, signers should mouth the actual word in English or other targeted spoken languages, as directed by the project.
  • Provide “spotter” support for the onscreen signer during filming. Spotter support includes providing interpretation recommendations, assisting with research for appropriate signs for the interpretation, watching for issues related to specific sign usage, body language, facial expressions, or other aspects that may affect the overall understanding of the material being interpreted.
  • Consistency is important to understanding and comprehending signed content, so use one signer for each section of material (e.g. an entire session of assessment, an entire chapter of a book, etc.).
  • To mitigate the risk of having to reconvene the filming team due to errors made in signed interpretations, a real time quality-control review process should be implemented.
  • Produce videos with audio recordings of voiced interpretations of signed content. These videos assist with the creation of final signed video assets, and in some cases, assist teams with reviews of video builds.
  • Non-audio versions of signed videos are delivered as final assets for inclusion into products.
Environmental Controls

Sign language is a 3-dimensional language so, environmental variables can interfere with the clarity of signed videos. For this reason, all videos should be produced to meet video player and customer requirements. Guidelines to maximize the clarity of signed content include, but are not limited to:

  • Signers wear a single, solid color that contrasts with their skin tone. This ensures that their hands and facial expressions can be seen clearly as they are signing.
  • Signers do not wear jewelry or watches because these can be distracting.
  • Patterned or thick, layered clothing is not allowed.
  • A plain backdrop is used that contrasts with the clothing worn by the signer and the signer’s skin tone.
  • Proper lighting is provided to ensure high-contrast images so that the signs and facial expressions are clear and easy to read.
  • Sufficient space above the head, below the waist, and on both sides of the onscreen signer is provided to allow the full range and motion of signs to be seen clearly within the video frame.

Need technical guidance?

Additional Resources to help you: