ITV to launch the world’s first British Sign Language channel

British Sign Language

ITV will be launching a new streaming platform this week, branded ITVX, the world’s first British Sign Language channel.

Deaf viewers will have access to a selection of 20 themed channels, offering over 10,000 hours of solely signed programming, which will include a range of shows such as Emmerdale and Coronation Street, Cilla, Alan Carr’s Epic Gameshow and Vera.

ITV’s Director of Accessibility, David Padmore, said: “We’re committed to placing great accessibility at the heart of ITVX and our offering at launch represents significant progress on ITV Hub. Our ITV Signed Channel gives us a fantastic platform for showcasing our rich archive of signed programmes.”

The channel which officially launches on 8th December, will be regularly updated and will grow to include both recent and archive programming from a wide variety of genres.

Accessibility is a core principle of ITV’s new streaming service, and teams across ITV have worked to ensure the brand, design and user interfaces are accessible and that they support assistive technology such as screen readers.

A top priority for ITVX has been to subtitle and audio-describe the rich selection of programming available and it will have subtitles for over 90% of on-demand programmes on every platform and device – from the mobile apps, through the main web browsers to all connected TVs and plug-in devices.

For live TV watched through ITVX, subtitles will be available to around 80% of viewers, watching through the mobile apps, web browsers and most connected TV devices, with work in progress to enable live subtitling via the remaining platforms, Freeview, YouView, Freesat and Chromecast.

Subtitles will also be available on all 20 themed channels on all platforms except Freeview, YouView, Freesat and Chromecast, at launch and the remaining subtitling gaps will be resolved in the first half of 2023.

Audio description is available for around 20% of programmes on the platform at launch, including all new ITV dramas.

 Teri Devine, Associate Director for Inclusion at Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), said: “Following the recognition of the British Sign Language (BSL) Act earlier this year, it is fantastic to see more and more industries and organisations become accessible to BSL users. We’re thrilled that ITV have considered the accessibility of BSL users for the launch of their new channel feature, making it easier for them to find new signed content. Building in accessibility from the start is important and should be the norm, and we look forward to seeing ITV expanding its access services across the remaining platforms.

12 million people in the UK are deaf or have hearing loss or tinnitus, so arguably a step that is long overdue, however, an important step nonetheless, towards inclusivity for all.

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