SignSupport is a mobile application which is co-designed by Deaf communities in South Africa and multidisciplinary research teams.
The idea of the design and development of SignSupport mobile app originated from Deaf community of Cape Town. Many Deaf people who mainly use signed language for communication encounter a lot of problems in communicating and accessing information in society where hearing people are the majority. The Deaf people know best about their communication problems, and also have some ideas for solution. Our research team, Bridging Application and Network Gaps (BANG) then has taken this initiative to bring Deaf people’s idea of solution to reality and implement it on mobile phone. With our attempts, the app is currently in the stage of functional prototype.
The Deaf Community of Cape Town (DCCT) is celebrating 25 years of supporting the Deaf culture, offering education and being the central meeting point for Deaf in the Cape Town area. The party will be on the 15th of September at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
DCCT was founded in 1987 originally to serve the needs of the black and coloured Deaf community in the Western Cape. Currently DCCT’s goal is to employ and empower Deaf people and to provide skill training in order to improve employment among the Deaf.
Without DCCT, the SignSupport concept wouldn’t ever be conceived. Its members have been actively volunteering as testers, co-designers and patiently participating in usability tests.
Congratulations to all the hard working people at DCCT. I wish you many more successful and fun years!
When I explain that SignSupport helps Deaf communicate with hearing people, many people not familiar with Deaf culture react with “Why don’t they just use text?” The answer to that question is twofold:
Deaf people have their own culture and language. Not based on spoken languages, sign languages is a combination of hand gestures and facial expressions. If one wants to provide good service to the Deaf community, one has to adopt their language.
Like in many other countries, in South Africa, many Deaf don’t receive proper education. As a result, many of them are bad readers or even illiterate.
Based on experiences of Deaf Capetonians, I made this storyboard to illustrate how normal day-to-day interaction with hearing society can lead to frustration and dangerous situations: