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Cheers from a Deaf Planet
by Angus Leech
How do you say "photosynthesis" in American Sign Language (ASL)? How can you make a working electromagnet at home? These are just a couple of the swell and scient-astic things kids can learn about while exploring DeafPlanet.com, a brand new Web site and television series created by Toronto's Marble Media.
The story centres on Max (played by Michael Bishop), an Earth lad who crash-lands his, um, "borrowed" rocket on a weird and wonderful planet populated entirely by deaf people who talk to each other using ASL. Luckily for Max, he soon meets Kendra (Amanda Richer), a smartypants teenager who offers to help him fix his broken spaceship after he crashes it into her house. The pair has no problem communicating, thanks to Max's stylin' robotic translator friend WILMA (the Wonderful Indispensible Language Machine, played by Jeri Cripps), who tags along on all of their kooky adventures.
Visitors to the DeafPlanet.com Web site will find a whole planet-full of interactive games, home science experiments, outtakes from the show, and other fun 'n' educational content based on the first season of TV episodes. There are plenty of fascinating math and science facts (not to mention ASL skills) to be learned as viewers join Max in his travels around this strange land of Rubber Band Jungles and Giant Whopper Fish, trying always to fix his ship and get home. And all of it is 100 per cent accessible for both deaf and hearing viewers - thanks to the use of closed captioning, audio voiceovers, and WILMA's two-way translations.
DeafPlanet is a collaboration between Marble Media and the Canadian Cultural Society for the Deaf. The Web site was officially launched on July 18, 2003 in correspondence with meetings of the World Federation for the Deaf in Montreal. The TV show will launch in September 2003 on TV Ontario and Access Alberta.
Angus Leech is English Editor for HorizonZero.
Canadian Cultural Society for the Deaf
World Federation for the Deaf
http://www.wfdnews.org/ (link no longer active)