As a child, Allyson Townsend had a deaf friend who, because of her hearing, had trouble understanding Allyson’s love of music. To try to explain herself, Townsend filmed herself signing to Sixpence None the Richer’s hit “Kiss Me” — not simply translating, but using American Sign Language and its motions to convey the feeling of the music along with the words.
During her years as a student at Baylor, she posted dozens of such videos to YouTube (covering songs ranging from Christian music like “Here I Am To Worship” to pop singles such as Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat’s “Lucky“), eventually gaining over 15,000 followers, well over a million total views, and a level of fame among the deaf and hearing impaired community.
Then her YouTube account was briefly closed last fall as she was accused of copyright violation. After a few anxious weeks, the resulting outcry from followers and a swift defense from the Electronic Frontier Foundation led to the account’s restoration — and even wider exposure for her work. Friday, Townsend was named ABC World News’ Person of the Week. (That video is embedded below and really captures her story far better than the words in this blog post.)
After graduating with her degree in deaf education earlier this year, Townsend is now a second grade teacher working with deaf and hearing impaired children in Mesquite. “When I see a child who’s just been exposed to music and who’s never had that experience before, it makes me feel great,” she told ABC. “It makes me feel like I’ve been able to provide them with something they’ve never had before, and something they can take with them the rest of their life.”
Sic ’em, Allyson!