Historic Royal Palaces

Historic Royal Palaces

2010 Digital Access Online

Exemplary qualities

This project innovates by raising standards of BSL video clip presentations. The acting qualities and period costumes make for a really engaging experience.

The size of the screen allows a good view of the actor’s hand shapes and body language

The sub-titling is spot on. Deaf users often use a combination of BSL and text. It provides a shared experience for deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people

These innovative qualities are due in no small measure to the collaboration with deaf actor John Wilson, whose creative input gives expressive power to the video clips.

The project

The project translates key visitor information about Historic Royal Palaces into British Sign Language (BSL), to cater for the growing number of deaf visitors and attract new visitors. The signing was done by deaf actor John Wilson, member of the Tower and Hampton Court Access Panels.

Five video clips were scripted for each palace, giving information on opening times, admissions, how to get to the palace and visitor access. In order to give each palace its own identity, John wears period costumes appropriate to each palace. He appears against different backgrounds. This way the atmosphere of each palace were conveyed, whilst all 25 clips were filmed at Hampton Court Palace.

The videos are also communicated in relevant areas of the website to ensure they can be found easily, such as on the accessibility page and on each palace’s visitor access page.

The total cost of the project was £2,600, which covered the filming, editing and supply of the completed films as well as the time given by the Access Panel member who did the signing and BSL interpreter presence. The filming was carried out all on one day whilst editing, subtitling, proofing and uploading the videos took around a month of collective staff time in total.

The Media Player on the website enables users to view video clips without the need to download special software.

All video clips are subtitled.

Other activities

Where possible in the palaces, information is provided in large print as standard or on request. Some exhibition text is available in Braille and all palaces offer British Sign Language tours/presentations – either scheduled or on request. To advise visitors of what is available, visitor access information is available on dedicated pages under all five palace websites.

Access leaflets are available for the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace and a 5-palace access guide is in production. The charity also advertises in several disability publications.

Historic Royal Palaces has a Single Equality Scheme (Sept 2009). We try to make our events as integrated and accessible as possible but, where this is not possible, we do provide additional services (for example, room describer escorts for blind and partially sighted visitors). Some of these need to be booked in advance.


The main motivation for this project was to address the needs of the number of deaf visitors to the palaces and have something on the website in their language.

John Wilson, a Deaf member of two of the Access Panels, approved the idea for the project and offered to do the signing.

He recommended being more innovative by using different plain backgrounds to represent each palace and by wearing an appropriate historic costume (i.e. medieval for the Tower pages, Tudor for the Hampton Court ones, etc.). Sue Whittaker who wrote the scripts and organised the filming, also wanted something imaginative. What was created was very much John’s vision.

The expressive nature of John’s signing, are what make this project inventive and unique. As a deaf person, John has a better understanding of deaf visitors’ needs and expectations; hence the videos’ content, production and quality accurately reflect what is truly required of this visitor group.


There are plans to update the films as required. For example, the Kensington Palace video clips will need to be re-scripted in 2012, when current building works are completed.

The number of video clips per palace will be increased over time to communicate more relevant information. The subtitled and entertaining BSL videos will continue to help enhance deaf visitors’ experience of the website as well as help them easily obtain the pre-visit information that they may require.