The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.
So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.
Recent advancements in communications technology such as text message and messenger apps have made it easier for the deaf community to communicate with people who hear. However, a new development out of Kenya looks to take things a step further by allowing deaf people to use their natural language, sign language, to communicate with everyone, face-to-face, in real-time.
Roy Allela, a 25-year-old Kenyan technology evangelist who works for Intel and is a data science tutor at Oxford University, has a six-year-old niece who was born deaf. She had difficulty speaking with her family because they didn’t speak sign language. So Alella got to work developing smart gloves that instantly translate sign language into speech.
“The general public in Kenya doesn’t understand sign language so when she goes out, she always needs a translator,” he told The Guardian. “Picture over the long term that dependency, how much that plagues or impairs her progress in life … when it affects you personally, you see how hard people have it in life. That’s why I’ve really strived to develop this project to completion.”