New sign language App hailed as lasting legacy for successful deaf awareness project

New sign language App hailed as lasting legacy for successful deaf awareness project
December, 2013
The Deaf Communications Infrastructure Development (DCID) Project culminated recently with a conference held at the Lough Erne Resort, Enniskillen.  The DCID project, funded by the European Union INTERREG IVA Programme, has run for the last 3 years and has given deaf people from the border areas of Donegal, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Monaghan, and Sligo an opportunity to teach Sign Language (either British or Irish) to the hearing people from these areas.  Other hearing people have also benefited through having deaf awareness sessions organised for them as part of their work.

Naomi Fujitani a British Sign Language Tutor for South West College speaking at the conference said that; "The impact of the project should not to be underestimated as it has improved the lives of many deaf people living in the local area.  Communication is a vital part of life and to be able to order food in my preferred language or ask for something in a shop and be understood is such a relief.  No one is embarrassed and the interaction is smooth and easy.  Teaching locally has given me the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends"

The DCID Project delivered 24 Deaf Awareness Sessions for the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WH&SCT) with almost 350 of their staff attending.  Jennifer Mayse, Equality & Involvement Officer for WHS&CT said; "Feedback received from staff has been that the training was very relevant, practical and thought-provoking.  It is hoped that, as a result of the training received, the experience that those service users who have a hearing impairment receive will be in some way improved when they now use Trust services.  The Trust is very grateful to the Deaf Communications Infrastructure Development Project for providing this training."

As a legacy of the project a smartphone App SignBasic was also launched.  This App was developed as part of the project as a means to help hearing people communicate in a simple way with deaf or hard-of-hearing people who they may encounter as they go about their everyday lives.  The App is designed to teach hearing people the alphabet and 15 everyday phrases, such as hello, goodbye, how are you, etc. and works across both Irish and British Sign Languages.  The App is also unique in that, unlike many other Sign Language Apps, it does not require internet access as it comes self-contained whereby you download it once and keep it on your device for as long as you need it. 

Mark Wheatley, Executive Director, at the European Union for the Deaf (a Brussels based organisation whose aim is to achieve equality in public and private life for Deaf people all over Europe to ensure they can become full citizens) launched the App as part of the conference and said that; "It is really important to demonstrate the accessibility and versatility of sign languages as shown through the innovative App created as part of DCID project." The App can be downloaded from Google Play for the Android Platform and the Apple Store for iOS users.

While the Conference marked the end of this phase of the DCID Project, South West College (lead partner) and other project partners Signature, Donegal Education and Training Board (ETB), Cavan and Monaghan ETB, Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB are determined to continue working together to ensure that the outcomes achieved to date are not lost and that the learning from the project is disseminated throughout the region and beyond.