For deaf viewers, open captioning makes movies and television more accessible, but for younger viewers who cannot read very quickly, subtitles aren’t very helpful. Fortunately, a new app, developed by 17-year-old student Mariella Satow, is making children’s movies more accessible with sign language versions.
The app, called SignUp, is also available as a Google Chrome extension and includes an interpreter in a box alongside six Disney+ classics like Frozen, Moana, and The Incredibles. After overwhelmingly positive feedback from parents, Satow plans to add more titles soon.
Satow got the idea for her innovative app while learning American Sign Language (ASL). Movies were instrumental in helping her learn, but she quickly realized that not many titles were available with an interpretation feature. Enchanting children’s movies were a big part of Satow’s childhood, and she says she couldn’t imagine them not being available for all children. With the help of ASL teachers and the deaf community, SignUp was born and now has thousands of users.
According to Satow, her motivation comes from encouraging messages she receives from her parents. One parent wrote to SignUp, “We watched ‘Moana’ Thursday night, with the SignUp interpreter on. My six year old daughter’s face was priceless. She LOVED it. She’s not reading yet, so captions don’t mean anything. It was the first time she’s had full access to a movie.”
Moving forwards, Satow hopes that SignUp will one day be incorporated into streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. With more than 300 sign languages used worldwide, she knows it will be an extensive, but rewarding, endeavor.