Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why do we need sign language videos?


With the revamp of the GARI website, we wanted to make the database itself as accessible as possible. In this vein, we added to the number of written national languages our first sign language translation: ASL - American Sign Language. You can see it online at http://www.gari.info/sign-language.cfm, where Heather Dowdy, the chair of our Accessibility Working Group is explaining the GARI site and project.

Perhaps not surprisingly for those that don't sign, we often heard the question: "Why do you need sign language videos? Can't deaf people just simply read the written text?" 

To answer this question, one needs to know that for persons who are born deaf or hard of hearing, or who experienced hearing loss in early childhood, sign language is the mother tongue and the written national language is their second language. 

So one global language for the deaf then? Unfortunately it is not this simple either. There are at least as many sign languages as there are written national languages. There is American Sign Language for the United States overall, Auslan in Australia, JSL in Japan, ISL in India, BSL in the UK, DGS in Germany…. with many local varieties and dialects. Estimates are that there are about 200 sign languages used around the world today (not counting the local varieties).

To cover at least some of the most used sign languages and make GARI's content accessible to as many deaf and hard of hearing persons as possible, we are looking for national and local deaf communities that could help us provide more sign language videos on GARI. 

If you are a proficient sign language user and would like to help us in this respect, please drop us a line at sabine.lobnig (at) mmfai.info - we are looking forward to hearing from you!

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