The global COVID-19 pandemic has left everyone with no choice but to wear facemasks n public for safety. However, while this move is proven to be effective, it has left a dilemma for the British Sign Language creators on YouTube.
A YouTube video, filmed in black and white, begins with nothing but pulsing music and an animated woman. The woman stands against a white background, giving voice to all her exasperations about the injustices that the Black community faces. She then displays a series of names of Black people who were victims of senseless deaths that happened in everyday activities that most people take for granted.
Moreover, the woman gestures emotionally as if she was blending the simple joys of life with sudden losses. Her words were powerful. However, not a single sound is heard. This is because those words were delivered by Vilma Jackson. She is a deaf performance artist who communicates using British Sign Language or BSL.
Throughout Jackson’s emotional video, she signs a litany of victims who died in the hands of the police in both the US and the UK. Such is a strong and defiant protest that sounds as loud and as forceful as any protests that have been spoken.
Jackson’s video is a reflection of the dynamic BSL community on YouTube. There are approximately 151,000 BSL users in the UK. 87,000 of these users are deaf.
Moreover, BSL differs significantly from American Sign Language or ASL. But BSL also has differences in terms of dialects within different regions in the UK. BSL also has three major trends along with two subsidiary trends. They encompass most of the BSL creator content and typically feature closed caption support. This is to keep the accessibility of the content to more viewers.
The Three Main Trends of British Sign Language
Teaching BSL during the COVID-19 pandemic
The first main trend is the teaching of British Sign Language. Such includes the subsidiary trend of facilitating communication in the middle of the pandemic.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased isolation for every community. In addition, it also imposed some new challenges. Indeed, the BSL community was no exception to these challenges. Yet, they responded to those challenges by imparting relevant information about the pandemic as well as other pressing issues. For instance, one problem is that lip-reading is the primary mode of understanding for hearing-impaired people in the UK who cannot understand BSL.
People had to wear facemasks in public, the creators of BSL worked to resolve the dilemma of obstructed faces. For example, Commanding Hands provided relevant and simple terms for people to communicate more effectively with hearing-impaired people. Charlie Raine, a deaf content creator, released a series of videos about this matter. One of her videos titled, “How to be a Lipreader Ally (Covid-19),” featured tips like wearing clear facemasks or turning captions on during video calls.
Sign Alongs – Increasing Views For Education
Engagement with pop culture through sign along is the second key trend in BSL. This trend has a subset of engagement with topically relevant social, cultural, and political events. It is essentially a modern version of trading growth of YouTube views for educational classes over YouTube!
One of the most popular and recent examples of sign alongs are creators Jade and Christian Kilduff. The two owns the channel called Sign Along with Us. Christian, Jade’s younger brother has cerebral palsy. He uses BSL to communicate with the people around him.
Last April, the siblings auditioned on Britain’s Got Talent along with a choir who sang “This is Me,” from the hit movie titled, “The Greatest Showman.” While the choir is singing, Jade and Christian signed the lyrics in BSL. As of the time of writing, the audition video already has more than 24 million views.
Documenting lived experiences
The last defining trend in BSL is the documenting of the lived experiences of deaf people. One of the biggest and most prominent creators in the BSL community who live by this trend is Jasmine Whipps.
Jasmine, who is better known by her fans as Jazzy, is a woman in her early 20s who started with her YouTube channel five years ago. Her goal is to share a positive outcome in life in the deaf community. She also wanted to enable hearing individuals to find out more about sign language and deaf awareness.
Jazzy’s channel took off in June last year when she uploaded a video titled “Can Siri Understand My Deaf Voice?” The extreme success of this video helped her YouTube channel jump from having roughly 15,000 subscribers to 100,000 in less than two months.
Buying YouTube Views With Marketing Dollars For Success
Her subscribers even went higher when Jazzy experimented with her family to find out if they could understand her deaf voice. Perhaps her own family members would secretly buy real YouTube views on her channel as a way to help her grow.
In addition, she educated her hearing fans along with Benny Ngo, a fellow deaf creator. Together, they showed their viewers what it is like for deaf individuals to go through a drive-thru McDonald’s.
As of now, Jazzy’s channel has more than 200,000 subscribers. She uses her channel to document her daily life, her travel adventures, personal experiences, and everything that she is passionate about.
Indeed, the British Sign Language community on YouTube has played a huge part in the platform. This is the reason why the video-sharing giant wants to give them a voice and show them the world. YouTube said that people with hearing impairments face unique challenges in order to remain connected with their surroundings as well as keep isolation at bay.
With the help of YouTube, content creators, and users in the small yet vibrant BSL community share their experiences and knowledge. It allows them to build bridges among each other and to reach out to the greater world, too.
Needless to say, the BSL community, despite all the challenge that they have to face every day, are able to take part and give solutions to the daily problems that deaf people are facing. For this reason, they deserve nothing but respect and admiration from their fans and other the entire community.