“My hands are shaking so I do apologise”.
A former Hollyoaks actress became the fourth person in Oscar history to deliver her acceptance speech accompanied by sign language yesterday.
“I made a promise to our six-year-old lead actress that I would sign this speech,” 30-year-old Rachel Shenton told the 2018 Academy Awards audience whilst accepting her statuette for Best Live Action Short Film. “My hands are shaking a little bit so I apologise.”
Shenton was speaking of Maisie Sly, who starred in her short feature, The Silent Child, as Libby, a young deaf girl whose world is opened up by a social worker who teaches her sign language. Shenton both stars in and wrote the feature.
Directed by Chris Overton, Shenton’s fiance and former Hollyoaks co-star, The Silent Child is one of only a handful of films featuring disabled actors to win an Oscar. Over 20 able-bodied actors have taken home awards for portraying disabled individuals and this year’s Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water starred Sally Hawkins as a mute cleaner. In comparison, only two disabled actors have ever been recognised by the Academy for their work, with the most recent being Marlee Matlin, who received Best Actress in 1987 for her role as a deaf janitor in Children of a Lesser God.
“Millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers, and particularly access to education,” said Shenton — who qualified as a British Sign Language Interpreter after the onset of her father’s hearing loss following cancer treatment when she was 12 — in her Oscars speech
“Deafness is a silent disability. You can’t see it and it’s not life threatening so 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 finished.
See the powerful address below.
Images: Rex Features