A guest blog post by Karen Hart
Karen Hart is the founder of Picsterbooks, a South African book publishing team whose focus is to create immersive book apps from genuine South African children’s stories. Karen has published “A is for Aardvark” an alphabet book app in Afrikaans built on Demibooks Composer. You can contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So what do you do when you find out you have a deaf child?
Generally it’s not at all what a parent expects when they think of their brand new bundle of joy. To some parents this is a reality, and as a parent what do you do for your deaf child? In my case I would do anything I could to help them prosper and function in a hearing world.
In South Africa this is not a reality for many deaf children or their parents. Most of our deaf children come from very low income households, most of these children fall through the cracks for many reasons, poverty, shame and lack of knowledge, are but only a few.
Most poverty stricken deaf children gets placed in schools like the Transoranje School for the Deaf by the state from the age of 3. Deaf children do not learn the same way hearing children do, this is a misconception that most hearing people have, including me.
Why can a deaf child not read? It’s simple, isn’t it?
Imagine for a second that you have never heard the sound of an “a”. If you have never heard the sound “a” how would you know when you read a word say “apple” what it sounds like, how to pronounce it, and how do you bring the two concepts together “a” is the sound for “apple”. So if you don’t know what it sounds like how do you read? Now multiply this problem with the 26 letters of the alphabet and all the variants of phonetic pronunciation, it’s a big problem. Profoundly Deaf children learn everything visually, but if a child is constantly bombarded with highly visual static content, how do you keep them engaged? It is a big problem that needs solving and that’s where the iPad comes in very handy.
I developed a small app using Composer to see if I could be helpful teaching hearing parents of deaf children Sign Language. The plan was to start with simple concepts like shapes, numbers and the finger spelling Alphabet. Once I visited the our regional Deaf school (Transoranje School for the Deaf) I knew that it wasn’t going to be as simple as composit an app, put it on the app store and move on to the next book.
My first Shapes in Sign Book App.
Alphabet and Number Flash Cards within the App
(User touches the letter/number and the appropriate flash card appears)
Each flash card contains an image, normal spelling as well as the finger spelling of the word with Voice Over triggered by the user touch saying the letter/number and the object name “frog” as well as spelling the word.
This community is in dire need of new solutions and the iPad is ideally suited for this. But there is very little available in the app store for deaf users. This is compounded by the different dialects of Sign Language. I am now heavily involved in creating specialized iPad content for deaf children, and Composer is the only software that will allow me to address this lack of content quickly and thoroughly.
In co-operation with the school we have launched the iDeaf=iCan Project in which we are using Composer to create iPad Apps for the deaf. Composer is ideal to use as we can incorporate embedded video of Sign Language into each page. We have small animations to keep the children engaged while incorporating voice into each sign gesture every word that is spelt with conventional letters as well as fingerspelling. This makes the App easy to use for both the Deaf and the hearing.
This is an example of the embedded video, with the sign language being shown by the interpreter
We are compositing each of the books in four different Sign Languages, American Sign Language (ASL), British Sign Language (BSL) South African Sign Language (SASL) Afrikaans and South African Sign Language (SASL) English.
I am compositing these book apps for the Transoranje School for the Deaf, the school is responsible for educating poverty stricken deaf children, they are very heavily reliant on funding for all projects. If you are interested in getting involved in this project please contact me at email@example.com
I will be compositing 12 books initially, comprising of Alphabet and Numbers Apps, Storybook Apps with voice and Sign, Basic Sign dictionary, Advanced Sign dictionary, Syntax and sentence construction Apps. You can read more about the project on our website.
Although I am building these book Apps for the Transoranje School for the Deaf, we want to make the apps available on the App Store, so that there is more in-depth content for deaf users, not just fingerspelling and basic commands, as well as a tool that parents and teachers can use to help teach deaf children Sign Language.