British actress Rachel Shenton made a promise to 6-year-old lead actress of “The Silent Child,” that, if they won an Oscar, she would sign her acceptance speech.
So, on Sunday night, when the film won the Oscar for Live Action Short, Shenton took sign language to the stage.
The film, which Shenton wrote and starred in, tell the story of a 4-year-old girl, Libby, played by Maisie Sly. Libby is deaf, born into a world in which she is isolated until a social worker teaches her how to communicate using sign language.
“I made a promise to our 6-year-old lead actress that I’d sign the speech,” said Shenton, whose fiancé Chris Overton directed the film. “My hands are shaking so I apologise.”
“Our movie is about a deaf child being born into a world of silence,” she continued. “It’s not exaggerated or sensationalised for the movie, this is happening, millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers and particularly access to education.”
“Deafness is a silent disability, I want to say the biggest of thank yous to the Academy for allowing us to put this in front of a mainstream audience," she added.
Meet the @SilentChildFilm 6 year old super star Maisie Sly, the profoundly deaf actor from Swindon is heading to the Oscars too she’s nominated alongside @overton54@RachelShenton - they told me shining a spotlight on disability is already winning #TheSilentChildOscars90@5_Newspic.twitter.com/qb5jEoLJYD— Minnie Stephenson (@MinnieSteph5) February 27, 2018
Shenton, who previously played Mitzeee Minniver in the Channel 4 soap “Hollyoaks,” became passionate about sign language and accessibility after her father became deaf when she was young, reported the Evening Standard.
And it went down so well on Twitter, with people praising Shenton for bringing accessibility to the Oscars award ceremony.
It’s amazing how quickly it becomes accessible for everybody once @RachelShenton spoke and signed for her speech. Even with her hands shaking, her signing was brilliant. Rachel, thank you for showing the mainstream audience that sign language is a beautiful language! #oscars— Seeta (@i_heart_mango) March 5, 2018
sign language on the oscars!!!! during an acceptance speech for a movie starring a deaf child!!!!!! deaf representation!!!!!!!!!!— .:: jessica ::. (@JessicaClones) March 5, 2018
Actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf, and who also signed her speech when she won best actress for “Children of a Lesser God” in 1987, wrote on Twitter: “Sign language at the Oscars once again!!! So proud of you Rachel!!”
Shenton joins Jane Fonda and Louise Fletcher, who have both previously signed at least part of their Oscar acceptance speeches — in 1979 for “Coming Home” and 1976 for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” respectively.
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