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Subtitles are an effective way to make audio-visual content accessible to those with hearing impairments, but for many deaf people, sign language interpretation is the preferred option and is considered to be more accessible than text-based captions. This is particularly true for children, whose reading abilities are lower than those of adults.

Taking this into consideration, the German broadcaster ZDF translated the entire dialogue of the children's fairy tale programme, "Der Zwerg Nase" (The Dwarf Nose), into German Sign Language (DGS). This ground-breaking initiative made it the first fiction programme to air with SL interpretation on ZDF Germany (online only).

The sign language interpretation was unique in that the interpreter appeared in the bottom right corner of the screen dressed up as the on-screen characters, and used costumes and props to interpret the spoken dialogue into German Sign Language. While the same interpreter delivered the sign language throughout the entire programme, he transformed himself into a variety of different characters to capture the imagination of those watching at home.

Screen shot from the Frog Prince with a sign language interpreter appearing in the bottom corner dressed up as one of the characters

This innovative solution from ZDF not only engaged and entertained children but also supported understanding and facilitated their ability to follow the dialogue. Interpreting dialogue into sign language when multiple people are speaking at once, or in quick succession, can make identifying speakers challenging, but this solution addressed this issue by associating interpreted dialogue with each character in a fun, creative, and engaging way.

Feedback from the deaf community was positive, as children were able to follow the story easily, even when several characters were speaking. As a result, ZDF repeated this format with their Christmas fairy tale, "The Frog Prince."

This solution demonstrates the effective use of creative solutions to make content more accessible and although it was used for TV programming, it serves as thought-provoking inspiration for potential solutions for advertising content.


ZDF – “Der Zwerg Nase” (The Dwarf Nose) with German Sign Language (DGS) and English subtitles