Apple brings important SignTime accessibility service to Australia

Apple SignTime interpreter
Source: Apple

Last week, Apple announced approximately one billion things. There was a new M2 Mac Mini, MacBook Pros, the resurrection of the big HomePod, Apple Map updates and, most excitingly for me, cycling directions came to Australian Apple Maps for the first time. In the midst of all those big-ticket items, it would have been easy to miss the Australian launch of SignTime.

SignTime will allow Apple customers who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing to use sign language when visiting the Apple Store or using Apple Support. The initiative has been used in the US and other territories for a while, but it’s only now coming to Australia and Japan. Fun fact: SignTime is called HandTime in Japan.

How does SignTime work?

To book a session with an interpreter, all you need to do is follow these steps:

  • Visit the SignTime website
  • Select your language from the drop-down menu (American Sign Language (ASL), British Sign Language (BSL), Auslan, Japanese Sign Language (JSL) or French Sign Language (LSF)
  • Give the site permission to access your camera and microphone and connect with the interpreter
  • The interpreter will then contact Apple Support and translate your conversation

In a statement, Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s Director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, wanted to ensure that more people around the world can access the important service.

“At Apple, we build accessibility into everything we do and we are constantly working on ways to support our customers and help them get the most out of their technology,” Herrlinger said. “With SignTime, we’ve created a seamless, personalised experience for our signing customers and we’re excited to bring this service to our customers in Australia and Japan.”

For many d/Deaf and hard of hearing people, Auslan (or other sign languages) are often their first language, with English and other spoken languages being their second or third language, which can make subtitles and other forms of written communication less precise for their needs. That can be a real problem for someone purchasing an expensive computer or discussing a complicated technical issue.

This comes as part of a wider tech and entertainment industry push for better accessibility. Another recent notable inclusion of sign language speakers is Forza Horizon 5, which last year added ASL and BSL support for cutscenes. Hopefully, more games and technology companies will include Auslan in the near future.

Read more Apple news on GadgetGuy