Sign language to go digital in Uganda

Africa, ICT, March 8 2017

UGANDA: Service providers who have always found it hard to interact with people who are deaf because they have no interpreters should breathe a sigh of relief. Uganda sign language is to be availed in a more simplified way.

The format, coined the digital format sign language, operates in a way that one will be able to learn sign language at the click of a button on their office computer or on their smartphones.

Uganda National Association of the Deaf (UNAD), an umbrella of deaf persons in Uganda, has partnered with the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (SPIDER) to make Uganda sign language learning accessible via digital platforms for people who are deaf, social service providers and anyone willing to learn.

SPIDER IS an organization at the Department of Computer and System Sciences of Stockholm University in Sweden.

According to SPIDER’s senior program manager, Magda Berhe Johnson, the technological shift to be introduced soon will always be available to all people who will need the services.

“We hope to bring together actors without the need of an interpreter. This will reduce on the costs incurred paying for facilitation of interpreters in case a service provider wanted to communicate with the deaf,” said Magda.

She added that the initiative would improve on transparency and education, as there are no third parties involved.

The project would also create partnerships with institutions of learning and the private sector because the digital content is accessible to students in schools across Uganda.

It is understood the project will also build capacity and equip sign language interpreters and organizations working with people who are deaf with skills and knowledge on the development and usage of digital sign language content.

Through its open-source digital learning content, the project is a great contribution to sustainable development, according to Ambrose Mulangira the, UNAD executive director.

He said the initiative has proven effective in realizing full participation and equal participation while closing the gap that existed between people who are deaf and other people.

Sign language in Uganda has been in existence for some two decades now basing on the constitution of Uganda that promotes the development of the language to aid deaf people in communication.

The two-year partnership project which has been implemented will see development of a mobile application, website and digital tutorials for learners to access and learn sign language.

Deaf centers operating in districts like Abim, Bugiri, Iganga, Mukono, Kampala, Ibanda, Agago, and Budaka among others with each district having (5) five learning centers will benefit from the sh400m project for two years.

According to Simon Eroku, the information officer at UNAD, the technology is going to connect the deaf people to the whole world through the improved communication strategy developed.

“I will be able to converse with many people since many of them whom I interact with have smartphones on which the application can be downloaded  like any other game for the user.”

Source: newvision

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