Home > Uncategorized > Sign language is part of Disney’s world

Sign language is part of Disney’s world

July 14, 2008

By SCOTT POWERS Orlando Sentinel

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – How might you say Mickey Mouse in Spanish?

Mickey Mouse will do – after all, it’s a proper name.

What about in American Sign Language?

That’s a different challenge. Spelling out Mickey Mouse with finger-spelling gestures gets tedious in a hurry.

How about this instead? Walt Disney World manager Mark Jones curls his fingers on both hands, thumbs on the bottom, to form opposing “C” figures, places them on top of his head, and then smiles.

Chances are, most people – hearing or deaf – would get the improvised mouse ears as the sign for Mickey Mouse – even though Disney officials made it up themselves.

Throughout Walt Disney World, stage shows, parades and a few of the other attractions offer American Sign Language Interpretation services, at least once a week, for deaf and hearing-impaired visitors. Everything at Disney has a name, and the company has never been shy about inventing its own words, which is why it has invented hundreds of Disney-specific word signs.

“To create that consistency from interpreted show to interpreted show, and also from interpreter to interpreter, there is that need to create signs that are unique to a character or unique to a location,” said Jones, operations manager for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ services for guests with disabilities.

Like any unfamiliar word that’s spoken and heard for the first time, a new signed word might be gibberish the first time someone encounters it. But by the second or third use, people usually figure out its meaning, Jones said. The new signs – developed with the help of consultants, notably ASL Services in Kissimmee – are always used in context and are often spelled out, too, the first time they’re used. And Disney has tried to make most of them obvious-looking.

Donald Duck? Jones gave the sign for the letter D, then formed a beak with one hand, straight fingers on top, thumb on the bottom. He put the back of his hand to his lips, and then flapped his thumb.

“Those signs wouldn’t necessarily be known outside of Disney,” he said. “But … it’s nice to see folks sort of pick these up when they go back home, so they start actually using the sign that we use when they get home.”

Next week Walt Disney World will receive the National Association of the Deaf’s “Access Award,” for the sign language interpretation and other programs.

Debbie Drobney, chair of Valencia Community College’s pre-associate of arts degree program in sign-language interpretation, said not all of Disney’s words travel well. She recalled working with a family from Boston, for example, who had developed some of their own Disney word signs, and she recalled liking at least one of theirs better than the Disney version. Still, she said, Disney World has earned an outstanding reputation for its interpreting service – not because of the individual words but because of the way the routines are choreographed, with the interpreters acting out roles with their faces and bodies as well as with their hands.

“They’re almost so visual that you don’t even have to know sign language to get the references to the imagery they use,” she said. “So deaf and hard-of-hearing guests are able to grasp that context quickly.”

It’s not unusual for companies to create their own sign-language words, particularly for jargon.

Rosanne Trapani of Interpretek helps create signs for clients such as instructors at the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Orlando, which occasionally has deaf students who need to talk about cam chains or cowlings. She said the process almost always is more complicated than just creating a gesture.

“When you take an English word into American Sign Language, they’re not word-for-word translations. You have to look for the meaning behind the English, and then let go of the English,” she said. “When you’re showing how big something is, it’s all about showing it in your face and eyebrows. Adverbs come across in body shifts. Doing it effectively and still making it look beautiful and pleasing, it’s a lot of work.”

To that end, most of Disney’s signs incorporate a facial expression – something Disney always has demanded of its resort employees in almost any role.

When Jones demonstrated the Mickey Mouse sign, he emphasized the expression.

“It’s this,” he said as he put his hands above his head, “but you always have to smile when you do it.”

http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20080712/APN/807120577

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. clyde
    July 14, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    I struggle what Donald Duck sign looks like..

  2. Just Jodi in the Netherlands
    July 15, 2008 at 2:13 am

    it says : some one helps CREATE a sign,, yikes does that means we will see incorporated HOME SIGNS oh dear,, but hey at least Disney is making an effort to “communicate” with the deaf guests,, but not sure if I would UNDERSTAND the SIGNS that they CREATED..since the signs are not readily understood in the deaf community ???
    Maybe i misunderstood the article but that is what I am reading,,,

  3. November 7, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    While doing oral interpretations is easy, sign language is far more difficult to comprehend.

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