Sign language media and deafblind people

Version 4 (6 July 2021)

Table of content

  1. Assumptions
  2. Your deafblind audience
  3. Making your media accessible
    1. Environment / setup
      1. Clothing
      2. Background
      3. Lighting
      4. Camera
    2. Signing style
      1. Body & head positioning
      2. Boundary of signing
      3. Spatial signing
      4. Facial expression
      5. When not signing / silence
      6. Fingerspelling
      7. Signing pace
      8. Use of examples
      9. Unfamiliar signs


  1. You use sign language
  2. You make media (TV, videos)
  3. You want to make them accessible to more deafblind people

Your deafblind audience

Many deafblind people do want to, and need to, follow your sign language media. Contrary to the common myth, the majority of deafblind people do still have some residual eyesight and therefore are able to follow your media.

But you'll need to take steps to make your sign language accessible. This page explains how.

Making your media accessible

The more of the below recommendations you are able to meet, the more accessible your videos are.

Environment / setup


  1. Wear one top covering all skin except face, neck, hands and forearms (i.e. short-sleeved top)
  2. High neckline: e.g. crewneck or boatneck (not scoopneck)
  3. No folding (e.g. collar)
  4. No overlapping fabrics (e.g. buttoned clothes)
  5. No creases (e.g. shirt too big or not ironed)
  6. No reflective fabrics
  7. The whole upper body has only the one clothing item: no necklace, bow, tie, badge, watch or ring
  8. Colour: one plain colour that contrasts with skin tone and background
    1. Dark skinned person: neutral light coloured
    2. Light skinned person: neutral dark coloured
  9. Any glasses are anti-reflective or use contact lenses


  1. Plain and solid
  2. Width of background includes shoulder-width space to the right and left and half shoulder-width above the person
  3. Colour: one colour that contrasts with clothing and skin tone
    1. Light skinned person: neutral dark coloured different to clothing colour
    2. Dark skinned person: neutral light coloured different to clothing colour (avoid white as too bright and reduces contrast within face/hands)
  4. Whole of background needs to be a dark colour or dimmed (i.e. nearer black than white)
    1. Especially computer-generated background
    2. No lights, windows or sun in the background


  1. Person should not be dull or dark due to poor lighting
  2. Light needs to be in front of person
  3. Use light from sun or window, or a light (around 3000 lumens) in a dark room
  4. Any light from behind (background) needs to be switched off or covered
  5. Dark skinned face and hands need greater contrast through use of lighting


  1. Video frame includes plain background (as described above) for at least shoulder-width space to the right and left, and half shoulder-width space to the above, of the person
  2. Head to waist of the person is at least 2/3 of the height of the video frame
  3. An alternative to above is to give the option to expand the person to take up the entire height of screen
  4. Height of camera needs to level with the person's eyes, not above or below

Signing style

Body & head positioning

  1. Shoulder to shoulder should be parallel to video frame, don’t turn slightly to the left or right
  2. Ear to ear should be parallel to video frame when possible, don’t turn head slightly to the left or right
  3. Crown to centre of neck should be parallel to video frame, don’t tilt head forward to backward
  4. Avoid leaning body forward or backward when signing
  5. If poor hearing means you need to turn head or tilt your head, change position, use hearing aids, or arrange/request for sound quality to improve

Boundary of signing

  1. Avoid signs that are below upper chest (e.g. "business" at waist level)
  2. When referring to something, use right hand to refer to something to the left and vice versa (not left hand referring to something to the left)
  3. When pointing to something on screen, pause for 3 seconds to allow viewer to track and come back to you

Spatial signing

  1. Use side-to-side signing more than back-to-front / front-to-back signing (e.g. timelines)
  2. Where possible, instead of pointing, use names (double-spell first letter of name or sign name)

Facial expression

  1. Use facial expressions more than usual
  2. Use mouth patterns more than usual

When not signing / silence

  1. If you’re not signing, don’t turn to the side, watch elsewhere, or fold your arms, instead you indicate to viewer what’s happening (e.g, "hold on, I’m listening…", "<name> is walking to a chair", "letting you know, I’m now handing over to <name>", "<name> is signing", "now swapping on to a new person", etc.)


  1. First time a new word is used, spell it slightly slower - about 3 letters per second
  2. Non-dominant palm facing camera when fingerspelling

Signing pace

  1. Steady pace, with no sudden movements of hands
  2. If under pressure due to time, ask to shorten speech, or move content to another time
  3. Ability to pause & control speed of signing (x0.5, x0.8, x1.2…)
    1. Including through the keyboard

Use of examples

  1. Use examples. Instead of "improve your life", say "improve your life, like depression, isolation…"

Unfamiliar signs

  1. Avoid using uncommon signs like jargon and acronyms
  2. When uncommon signs are used, explain what they are, if no time to explain, ask for more time