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ITV Unveils ‘Signed Stories’ Treasure-House For Deaf Children.

What is intended to become the world’s largest online library of contemporary children’s books fully accessible in sign language, sound, animation and text has been launched by the British broadcaster ITV, for free use by teachers, parents and carers of deaf children.

Signed Stories (
http://www.signedstories.com )
has been created by ITV SignPost, the company’s non-profit accessibility agency. Around 25 stories are already available to view in British Sign Language by streaming video alongside the other complementary formats, with a plan to offer 150 stories by the end of the year, and 300 or more by the end of 2010.

According to the site’s creators, every major publisher approached has agreed to hand over rights to use their books in this way, with those signed up to date including Macmillan, Penguin, Hachette Children’s Books and Walker Books.

Eileen Young, Manager of ITV SignPost, told E-Access Bulletin her team now wants the site to grow and eventually to become more interactive, with possible future features including book reviews by children; forums for deaf kids; and the ability for teenagers to communicate with each other by signing using webcams.

Malcolm Wright, Managing Director of ITV SignPost, said the initiative was born from a sense of deep frustration at a widening inequality between deaf children and hearing children in an area – reading stories – that might seem as if it presented no barrier for the deaf.

“The attainment gap was getting wider, and I was astonished that in a caring, first world country this could be happening,” Wright said. An important subsidiary function of the website is its ability to provide other information to those working with deaf kids, he said. “The back end of the site contains a lot of advice and resources for deaf parents, parents with deaf children and teachers of deaf children.”

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