1. Your target group


Deaf people have their own language and their own culture. It is difficult for a French producer to make a typically English production. It is as difficult for a hearing producer, to make a Deaf production. Define the target group of your production, get to know them, consult them, involve them.


Decide who you want to reach with your video. The Deaf community, deaf children, hearing parents of deaf children, teachers, the mainstream community, the world? In what sort of context will people view your production?

Get to know them… 

After you’ve defined your target group, try to find out as much as possible about the people in your target group.
  • How large is your target group?
  • How many copies can you expect to sell, distribute?
  • How can you reach your target group: video, TV, through Deaf clubs, through schools, etc.?
  • What earlier productions have been made for this target group, what was the response to these? 

Consult them… 

Contact members of the target group, discuss your plans with them:
  • Hardware: what equipment does your target group have access to?
  • Where will your target group use the production, and in what context? In a school, or a Deaf club? Alone at home, or with family and friends?
  • If your target group are children: will they watch independently, or with parents, teachers, peers?
  • Are there specific subgroups you should take into account, e.g. based on age, school, interests, regional differences, home-language, etc. Also: are the members of your target group real trend-setters, or more traditionally minded?
  • Language: not all Deaf people are fluent in sign language. Not all Deaf people use the same sign language. Especially in countries where sign language is not used in the education of the Deaf and/or on television: many potential viewers may not be fluent signers.
  • Background knowledge, experience: what does your target group know about the subject of your production? Is your production one of a series, does it fit in a tradition, do your viewers know what to expect? Or: will this be a very new format, or very new content for your target group?

Involve them! 

Show the target group productions (made by you, or by other people, in other countries) and ask them what they do or do not like about these productions. If at all possible: include experienced members from the target group in your production team, from day one.



Book, TV, or Computer?

Deaf children watch mainstream television and play mainstream computer games. Many Deaf children are reluctant readers. In the Netherlands, 75 % of the children who participated in the  user evaluations said they watch television for 2 or more hours per day, 40% said they play computer games for 2 or more hours per day, and only 11% read books for 2 hours or more per day.

If it were up to these children, they would want a lot of action and a lot of video in a signing book. A narrator signing a story with no visuals is not very popular.

Partly, this may be because Deaf children in the Netherlands don’t have a ‘tradition’ of watching videos in sign language.

The number of videos with sign language is small, and they are watched at home, for entertainment only. At school, videos with sign language are used only occasionally, and children receive no instruction in media use, or how to ‘read’ a video with comprehension (comparable to instruction in reading books ‘with comprehension’). So the preferences of (Dutch) Deaf children may not be universal ones, but caused by the lack of experience today’s Deaf children in the Netherlands have with signing books.On the other hand: probably all children prefer television, video and computer games to reading books, and it is often predicted that interactive multimedia books will soon replace all books. Only 10% of the teachers of the Deaf (NL) who participated in the evaluations, had a computer with a CD-ROM player in their classroom, while 70% had a television and video-player in the classroom.

Textbook or Video?

The majority of Deaf students in secondary education in the Netherlands were educated orally or with sign supported Dutch; only now are they learning the Sign Language of the Netherlands. When asked, 80% said they prefer subtitles to sign language translations for access to mainstream television and video-programmes. Deaf students in mainstream (higher) education in the Netherlands responded that they would probably understand a sign language translation of a printed textbook better than the printed text. However, several students added, if they are to compete on the mainstream labour market, they also need to be able to use the mainstream vocabulary, and to be able to read printed textbooks. A sign language translation on videotape with subtitles in combination with a printed book, or better yet: an interactive production on CD-ROM with text, sign language, and visuals may therefore be the most appropriate format for this target group.

Target Group: Hearing or Deaf?

"Een wereld van gebaren" (A World of Signs) is a Belgian (Flemish) television and video production about sign language and deafness. The main target group of this production was the larger, mainstream community. Since Flemish Belgium doesn’t have any sign language programmes on television or on video yet, of course the Deaf community in Flanders was very interested in this production. The (hearing) director, however, had no experience with sign language productions and saw the mainstream, hearing community as the main target group. Since he was convinced that a static picture of a sign language user is visually not very interesting for non-signing viewers, he decided to use an innovative approach to film the many signers in the production: the camera is never stationary, but swings around the signer, in three dimensions.

During a single shot, the viewer sees the signer from the front as well as the back, from below as well as from above, and from the left as well as from the right hand side. Deaf people watching this production on television, tried to follow the camera’s eye in an attempt to keep track of the signing: while watching the screen, their heads swerved from left to right, and from top to bottom. Many Deaf viewers in Belgium were unhappy about this innovative camera-technique and thought that the needs of Deaf viewers had not been taken into account sufficiently in this production.