Princess Anna knew more than simple phrases in sign language. They spoke about Zoe's favorite Disneyland rides.
Disney has recently been increasing its efforts to be more inclusive. In fact, the Walt Disney Company earned a top score on the 2022 Disability Equality Index. Recently, an 11-year-old deaf girl experienced a Disney dream of her own while visiting Disneyland when a princess spoke to her in American Sign Language. Though it was not Zoe Tapley's first time at Disneyland, it was the first time a character had spoken to her in ASL without her parents helping with interpretation. "It was one of those things where she got to feel the magic rather than being filtered through mom and dad," Zoe's father, Jesse said.
Zoe was at Disneyland with her family on July 16 when she noticed the "Frozen" character Princess Anna waving to guests there. They were surprised to find that Princess Anna could fluently communicate with Zoe using ASL. The princess asked Jesse, "Can I sign?" After getting his permission she spoke to Zoe about her favorite Disneyland rides and her adoption story from the Congo.
@jeanettetapley When Princess Anna can sign and have a full conversation with my deaf child. Zoe has never been able to chat with a princess without Jesse or myself interpreting. This was magical. Thank you Princess Anna for making our trip so special! #deafchildren #asl #americansignlanguage #BigInkEnergy #fyp #feelgood #inclusionmatters @Disney Parks @Disneyland California ♬ For the First Time in Forever - From "Frozen"/Soundtrack Version - Kristen Bell & Idina Menzel
Jesse thinks that the Princess must have seen them sign to each other. "Sometimes the characters will know, like, 'What's your name?' or 'Nice to meet you'," he adds. But the Tapleys from New Braunfels, Texas, said they were surprised to see Princess Anna knew more than simple phrases in sign language and was quite fluent. "I was like 'Wow!'" Zoe shared with Good Morning America using ASL, with, her mom Jeanette's assistance in translating.
The video of this heartwarming moment that Zoe shared with Princess Anna was captured by Jeanette. Both Jesse and Jeanette were moved to tears by the interaction. "We've been to Disney many times and by far it was our best interaction we've ever had," Jesse said.
@jeanettetapley Replying to @fearless_christ_follower want to know what zoe and anna are saying?! Turn your volume up and listen in! ❤️#fyp #deafchild #asl #americansignlanguage #disneymagicmoments ♬ original sound - Jeanette Tapley
It was a beautiful experience for them to see their daughter fully enjoying the Disney experience. The fact that Zoe's ASL development was on display at the time added to its significance. Seven years ago, when Zoe was adopted from the Congo, she did not know how to sign. Zoe shared that she was extremely quiet and reserved, and did not know how to pick up on a language. Since then, she has put a lot of effort into enhancing her language abilities at school and with her parents.
"I progressed, progressed, progressed. And now my language is just full ASL," Zoe said. "At Disney, I was so excited because I got to share with my friends and I got to sign and everything."
A representative for Disney stated that interactions like the one Zoe had are "what Disney is all about." According to the spokesperson, "that feeling of belonging to the Disney magic, and the authentic, emotional moments of connection with our characters and our cast" is what it's about.
Jeanette uploaded the moving interaction between the Princess and Zoe on TikTok. Many users expressed support and talked of the importance of learning sign language. "I’m deaf, and I am a native sign language user. All I can say she signs amazing! Wow! I’m really in awe! It seems to be at Epcot! Hoping to see her," a user commented. Another user shared, "I’m a Teacher of the Deaf and a travel agent specializing in Disney. This made me cry!! I can’t wait to show my students tomorrow! 🤟"
Zoe shared that she feels very happy to see this kind of support emerge from people watching her video. "I'm happy to see that people love my video," Zoe said. "These people love it ... and there's no bullying. It's been really, really nice." Zoe's parents also feel very happy, explaining that it's not just the joy that their daughter is getting support, but also to see more awareness around the importance of ASL. "There's just this joy of seeing ASL being celebrated and being in the spotlight ... that's so beautiful and so important to our family and to her culture," Jeanette said. "It's been really special."