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.

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“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.

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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.

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!!” 

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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.

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on ensuring every child has access to education, as well as access to quality basic healthcare for all. You can join us on these issues by taking action here.


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This British Oscar Winner Signed Her Acceptance Speech and It Was Beautiful

By Imogen Calderwood