Living with Deafblindness

Key Word Sign

Key Word Sign is a simplified sign language system that uses manual signs and natural gesture to support communication.  Previously called Makaton in Australia, this signing system is now known as Key Word Sign and is used to encourage and support language development in children and adults with communication difficulties.

Key Word Signing uses a core vocabulary of specially selected words that comprises concepts and ideas considered to be the most appropriate for children and adults with communication and language difficulties. In Australian Key Word Sign, each word (concept) is matched to a hand sign borrowed from Auslan, the native language of the Australian deaf community.

The main features of Key Word Sign include

  • sign the main words but say the whole sentence
  • use natural gesture and facial expression
  • uses some finger spelling
  • signs come from the official sign language of the region

The communication partner of the person who is deafblind may use the signs to communicate a message to the deafblind person and/or to support the understanding of a spoken message. Some deafblind people may also use Key Word Sign to communicate their own messages to others.
In Australia Key Word Sign was known as Makaton until around 2010. Makaton is a trademarked term with its origins in the United Kingdom. Officially, it is a term no longer used in Australia.