Strictly boss explains how show has adapted for first deaf contestant Rose Ayling-Ellis

Producers have taken steps to ensure the soap star is properly welcomed to the Strictly family.

Rose Ayling-Ellis in Strictly Come Dancing 2021

As Strictly Come Dancing welcomes its first ever deaf contestant, producer Sarah James has revealed some small changes required to ensure the show is entirely accessible.


Rose Ayling-Ellis became known to soap fans across the country when she joined the cast of EastEnders in 2020, where she plays the regular role of Frankie Lewis.

She is one of 15 celebrities in the Strictly Come Dancing 2021 line-up, which also includes fellow soap star Katie McGlynn and McFly frontman Tom Fletcher among others.

In an interview with, James discussed measures taken to ensure that the 19th series is fully prepared to welcome its first deaf contestant.

“I think already myself and the team have learned a lot from Rose,” James began. “She’s an amazing person. She’s also very honest about what she needs and what we need to adapt.

“So it’s been an ongoing conversation. All of the team are doing deaf awareness training, which has been brilliant and learning some sign language and that’s been brilliant as well.”

Longtime Strictly viewers will notice minimal differences between Ayling-Ellis’ segments and those of the other contestants, with the top priority being that she always has a sign language interpreter present.

“Rose will need an interpreter with her at all times so she’ll always have an interpreter with her in training, and then on the show, you may see an interpreter occasionally on camera,” explained James.

She added: “Obviously, she’ll need somebody to interact with the judges comments and fantastic Claudia [Winkleman]. But other than that, I know that Rose really is looking forward to the show just like everybody else, and I can’t wait to see what she does.”

Fans will soon find out which of the Strictly Come Dancing professionals will be partnered with Ayling-Ellis, as the full roster of couples are set to be revealed on this weekend’s opening show.


Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One on Saturday 18th September. Check out more of our Entertainment coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.