Accessibility: Sign Language Interpreting for Live TV

by | May 9, 2022

Accessibility is very important to everyone. It is particularly a great initiative for persons with disabilities. The concept of accessibility means that no one is left behind and everyone is able to gain access and benefit. Sign Language Interpreting for live TV is one such service that guarantees accessibility to information and entertainment for  those who are hearing impaired.

Broadcast stations in the United States are required to make adequate provisions for sign language interpreters, allowing everyone, even those with a disability to have access to content that is provided on tv.

A fun fact to note is that in 2018, the United Nations declared September 23 as the International Day of  Sign Languages. Sign Language is the key for deaf and hearing impaired persons to break down communication barriers so they can function well within the society like anyone else.

With this in mind, our Day Interpreting blog is going to give some key guidelines to help everyone involved in providing sign language interpreting for live TV some great tips for producing live TV events. We want to help you to make the live television experience for those who are hearing impaired, a great one.

Let’s not waste any more time and get right into it.


The Elements of Sign Language Interpreting for Live TV

On-Screen Placement

When it comes to sign language interpreting for live TV, the placement of the interpreter on screen makes or breaks the intended effect it’s supposed to have. There is no standard procedure when it comes to placing sign language interpreters on screen, but there are 3 common presentation methods that are used. They are as follows:

Main Screen Sign Language

This is probably the most effective form of live tv sign language interpreting because the interpreter is standing beside the speaker and is easily seen by everyone. This is the most optimal form of on-screen placement when it comes to live tv sign language interpreting.

Chroma Key Technology Sign Language

The Chroma Key technique for featuring live tv interpreters is done using a green screen. The interpreter is then placed on the main screen to the bottom right hand corner. It’s usually recommended that the interpreter does not take up less than 1/6th of the screen.

Picture-in-Picture  Sign Language

Possibly the least optimal choice for live interpreters, the picture-in-picture sign language on-screen presentation is either shown in a square or oval enclosure. The interpreter is usually small and many of the gestures and facial expressions are not easily recognizable, making it difficult for those watching to follow along.

It’s absolutely important to note that as long as your live broadcast is featuring sign language interpreters, there should be enough space provided for the signer to be seen at all times while doing all gestures.


Doing Interviews 

If there’s a live interview in progress with a guest who is hearing impaired and requires a sign language interpreter, the  main focus should be on the guest and not on the interpreter. That said, there should still be sufficient provisions made on-screen for the interpreter. The same requirements go for the host, who should be making eye contact with their guest and not with the interpreter.  In a situation like this, the interpreter is required to do two things: sign for the guest and voice what they are saying to the host. Sometimes, the guest is able to use their voice, but the arrangements are to be made prior to going on-screen. In a case where the signer is the host (interview or other program), the visual elements for display should be reduced and a blank space left for the signer to have proper placement on screen.


Do’s and Don’ts

  • Always ensure that the Interpreter is displayed at a large enough size and resolution for everyone to see them.
  • Never allow the interpreter to be presented on the screen at a smaller size than one sixth of the entire tv screen.
  • Don’t run credits or captions across the screen and obstruct the presentation of the interpreter.
  • Always plan for the presence of the interpreter on screen so that placements of other elements do not interfere with their presentation.
  • Use a solid color background when using the picture-in- picture presentation method. It should also be a contrast to the skin tone of the interpreter


Accessible Emergency Management and Sign Language Interpretation

It is highly important for all members of society to have access to information in emergency situations. Making provisions for members of the deaf community through live interpreting is a vital requirement. The presentations must be of high quality, providing clear visuals for both the interpreter and those watching to understand what’s going on.



Accessibility is a human right and Day Interpreting understands this perfectly. This is why we provide top of the line, on-demand interpreting services for everyone.
Visit our website and download the Day Interpreting app to break all communication barriers and gain access to the things that matter most to you.

Kayan Milwood
Kayan Milwood

Kayan is a multi-talented writer based in the beautiful island of Jamaica. Her strong point is ideation and she loves to take on new challenges.

Kayan Milwood

Kayan is a multi-talented writer based in the beautiful island of Jamaica. Her strong point is ideation and she loves to take on new challenges.

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