History of SignSupport

Together with Deaf Community of Cape Town (DCCT), the research team had multiple attempts to find a suitable solutions for bridging communication gaps between Deaf and hearing people.

The multidisciplinary team formed by Department of Computer Science, University of Cape Town, Department of Computer Science, University of the Western Cape, and Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Delft University of technology.

The first version of SignSupport derived from a community-based co-design (CBCD) process with DCCT. The Deaf participants defined the communication problems and possible solution. Mobile application was seen as a feasible tool to bridge the communication between a Deaf patient and a doctor. Health consultation was raised as a scenario to kick off the design and development of SignSupport. The conceptual design of SignSupport for health consultation (2008-2009) and its implementation of feature phone (2009-2011) were tested by Deaf people from DCCT, and the Deaf participants were satisfied with the way it could bridge some predictable conversation. However, communication during a health consultation could be diverse and complex. To start from something we know just a little how to do it, we considered setting smaller scope of the design and development for SignSupport.

The project trajectory was then moved to a simpler and predictable communication—medication dispensing process. Pharmacists are trained to ask certain questions from patients, and then dispend and explain the medication instruction to patients. The conceptual design of SignSupport for pharmacy context (2011) and its implementation on Android phone (2012-2014) were tested by Deaf people from DCCT via roleplay and simulated hospital pharmacy counter. The results were satisfactory because the participants could understand how to take medication. However, we also figured that many Deaf people who do not have access to accurate and understandable health information may not adhere to the prescribed medication or the suggested treatment.

The research team then proposed to the Deaf community to expand the project for the design development of the health knowledge transfer system (HKTS) as an extension of SignSupport. Diabetes as a case study for the development was also derived from CBCD. The process is still in process (2013-present). Up to this stage, the number of Deaf communities in collaboration is growing.

SignSupport is more suitable for bridging the some predictable and simple conversation. However, if the communication could breakdown due to its complexity, a Deaf user can make a video relay call to a signed language interpreter center. The development of the video breakout is still in process (2014-present).

Not only health care context that SignSupport can serve, it can also assist in other scenario. SignSupport of computer literacy learning was design and developed (2014-2016). The Deaf learners are satisfied with the use of it.

Our intention is to transfer the project of SignSupport to Deaf communities, so that they can design their communication flow for multiple communication scenario, e.g., communication at post office, communication for HIV counselling, etc. The authoring tool (2014-2016) was designed for a Deaf community to develop SignSupport with the specialist of that communication scenario.