Bringing sign language to your fingertips
Milliam Murigi @millymur1
Getting an in-person sign interpreter is a costly affair and not many can afford it despite the fact that their services are required almost everywhere.
However, things are set to change with introduction of assistALL mobile application.
Developed by Signs Media Kenya Limited, the application which is available on Google play store connects sign language interpreters to the deaf people who would want to communicate in various settings virtually.
“The idea of coming up with this application was borne this year because of Covid-19.
We realised most intervention measures such as social distancing and wearing face masks were not favourable to the deaf community,” says Luke Kizito Ojiambo Muleka, Founder and Managing Director, Signs Media Kenya Limited.
He says the use of protective gears such as face masks inhibited the deaf in their communication because facial expressions including lip movement is integral to Sign Language communication.
The company was also motivated to come up with this invention to help any deaf person who might end up in any isolation centres across the country get interpretation services.
Reason being in such a case doctors, nurse and interpreters would all be covered in PPEs from head to toe when attending to such patients.
But using the solution means that an interpreter can be accessed remotely.
“We designed this application to solve such problems and ensure proper communication between the health care providers and the deaf on their recovery progress,” he says.
No missed opportunity
Luke explains that just like Mpesa brought bank to the hands, assistALL will bring interpreters to the hands, and they will roll it out globally even post Covid-19 to ensure no deaf person is left behind or misses an opportunity because they lacked interpretation services.
Currently, they are working with Signs TV resident interpreters, but are encouraging other interpreters across the country to enroll and help their friends who are deaf during and after this pandemic because their service ensures their safety adhering to government directives of working from home.
During this global pandemic, it’s a free service and they are encouraging volunteerism from interpreters, however once the pandemic is over they are going to deploy a premium model to institutions and organisations, which have had challenges catering for the deaf community.
“Currently we are working with about 10 interpreters, but we are targeting all available interpreters in Kenya and across Africa.
We will later bring on board interpreters from the rest of the world,” Luke adds.
The process of getting an interpreter is very simple. Once you send a request, an interpreter who is online will be selected to serve you.
Once selected they will be notified, and the connection is instant.
According to him this application comes with a lot of advantages because now and in future, service providers will have no excuse in denying people with hearing loss quality services.
They can access an interpreter at any time of the day. The app will significantly lower the cost of the deaf acquiring interpretation services.
It will also enable one interpreter to serve more than one person during the day hence their effort as an interpreter will pay off.
“Leveraging technology to create a new model for interpreting may reduce costs for medical and other facilities while maintaining market rates of pay for interpreters.”
After downloading the app, the first screen allows a user to register. If you register as an interpreter there is a quality control section, which verifies your information and you will be required to share your certification.
Once vetted and approved you will be entered into the network and you can wait to be paired with a client.