Gallaudet University is taking advantage of a special episode of ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth” Monday night, as a commercial for the university will air during an episode of the show that is told entirely in American Sign Language — and based on real-life events that happened at the school itself.
The all-sign language technique for the episode is a first for a scripted series on mainstream television, according to the network, which will air Gallaudet’s commercial twice during the hour. The episode takes place on the 25th anniversary of the Deaf President Now movement at Gallaudet in March 1988, when students and faculty protested after the university instated a hearing president over two deaf candidates.
“Switched at Birth,” which wraps up the first half of its second season next week, follows the chaos that takes place when two high school girls find out they were sent home with the wrong families as babies in the hospital. One of the daughters is deaf, resulting as a driving plot force in the series. The show, which debuted in June 2011 to more than 3 million viewers, has attracted around 1.7 million people per episode this season.
In Monday’s episode at 8 p.m., the fictional Carlton School for the Deaf is on the brink of closing, so the students protest, inspired by the real-life circumstances at Gallaudet in the 80s. The whole hour will be in sign language, with accompanying subtitles.
Gallaudet’s commercial, which looks at key events during the eight-day-long demonstration of the Deaf President Now protest, will air at 8:20 p.m. and 8:40 p.m.
“It is wonderful Switched at Birth chose this pivotal moment in history to share with their viewers,” Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz said in a statement. “Over the past 25 years, [Deaf President Now] has symbolized self-determination and empowerment for deaf and hard of hearing people around the world.”
Here’s a preview of the commercial: