Technology Makes Life-Changing Advances for People Using Sign Language
Speech therapy is a broad field that treats a variety of patients, disorders and modes of communication. A communication modality can be any number of means a person uses to express himself or herself. According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), speech language pathologists now encounter many clients whose primary mode of communication is through American Sign Language. This can become a challenge, however, when SLPs are not fluent in sign language themselves. It’s a challenging problem across many areas of life, in fact, for persons who use American Sign Language to communicate with people who are not signers. Until now there has been little a person could do to ease the burden of such a communication breakdown, but thanks to modern technology, life changing advances are improving the way people who use sign language are able to communicate.
Breakthrough sign language devices are taking advantage of modern technology and addressing this complex problem. Thanks to a new device called Enabletalk, the communication barrier between the hearing and deaf or hearing impaired community can be diminished with one simple glove and a smart phone (yes, there’s an app for that!)
Enabletalk is a one of a kind invention born out of the Worldwide Microsoft’s Imagine Cup where it won first place in the competition. Microsoft’s Imagine Cup challenges participants to solve problems using technology. In this case, the Enabletalk’s Ukrainian invention team took on the communication problems of using sign language. Inside the glove and attached to the sensor are tools such as a gyroscope, flex sensor and accelerometer to help detect and interpret the sequences of finger movements produced by the user. That information is then transmitted to the smart phone using blue tooth, where it is translated into text. Finally, the text is played aloud using specialized computer software, given the message a sort of “voice” to deliver it- much like an AAC device.
Now before you break the bank trying to make one yourself, and end up having to educate yourself about bankruptcy, you should know the inventors are trying to raise enough funds to move beyond prototypes and produce them for consumers. After a $40,000 investment, the creators estimate gloves might be sold for around $200/pair, once mass produced.
Inventions such as this one prove that many communication challenges faced by children and adults receiving speech therapy intervention might be greatly enhanced by the use of technology. It also proves that communication intervention is crucial for the everyday lives of millions of people across the world. Even if the gloves never come to mass market, you can be sure that entrepreneurs and inventors have their eyes on many other forward thinking innovations that will making life changing advances for people using sign language.