Finalist category: Accessibility Award


Accessibility Award, Finalist, 2020

Did you know there are 12 million hearing impaired people in the UK, 900,000 are severely or profoundly deaf and 70,000 use British Sign Language(BSL) as their main or only language? In education, 60% of Deaf learners fail to get five good GCSEs(A*-C), which has knock-on effects on future opportunities.

In Sign Language there’s no link between signs and how words are phonetically represented. Being Deaf from a young age has a huge impact on an individual’s ability to learn written language. This can affect educational development and create difficulties with grammar, vocabulary, written and spoken language.

The Sign2Word app aims to radically transform the learning experience for Deaf learners and their engagement with Communication Support Workers by providing a platform, using AI technology, to translate Sign Language into written English and create a personalised sign dictionary.

Bringing a diverse community of young people together, this youth-led project aims to champion accessibility and Tech4Good within the Deaf community. Imran(17), one of our young coders who is Deaf, came up with the original idea for the Sign2Word app, in response to difficulties he faced with literacy. He’s partnered with Femi(14), who has been exploring and developing the AI elements of the app.

Feedback has been fantastic and there’s been offers of support and collaboration through the National Deaf Children’s Society(NDCS) and the National Register of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind people(NRCPD), who are responsible for hundreds of British Sign Language professionals.

To maximise the app’s social impact, the team will be partnering with two schools and a college, initially. Imran and Femi will be leading coding, AI & Design Thinking workshops alongside focus groups to enable Deaf learners to take a leading role in the further development of the Sign2Word app and to build a diverse, Open Source BSL dataset.

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