A local software development team, Room 28 Creatives is working on the 1st Zimbabwean Sign Language mobile video dictionary. The dictionary, Purple Signs, will contain more than 1500 English to Zimbabwe Sign Language words in a bid to increase access to services for the deaf.
How is this different from other Sign Language video dictionaries?
Yes, someone may argue “I have seen sign language video dictionaries before, whats special about this?”, but sign languages are specific to countries. This means an American Sign Language(ASL) dictionary will contain some differences when compared to a Zimbabwean sign language dictionary. Purple Signs is a dictionary for Zimbabwean Sign Language by local developers.
Who is this for?
Purple Signs was created in a bid to improve communication between deaf and non-deaf people and create a more inclusive society. Dominic Tapfuma, the developer who came through to show us how the app works, says it’s meant to cater for people who are interested in learning Zimbabwean Sign Language but might not necessarily have the time or resources to get lessons.
With Purple Signs, people will be able to learn at their own pace whereas institutions such as Sunrise Sign Language Academy(SSLA) offer a 3-month basic training program. One may not have 3 months to spare but with an app, you can do it whenever you are free without having to commit to physical classes.
Keep in mind however that the app is still in development so it can only be fully assessed once it’s out. Also, I’m not an authority on sign language so I cannot give testament to how good the app is or if it’s actually better than SSLA programs.
Dominic hopes that this application can be used in more formal institutions such as banks, hospitals and government departments in order to create a more inclusive community for the deaf.
I think this may be the most useful way to integrate such an application because in many cases people find themselves in a bank or hospital failing to understand what their documents are actually saying. Usually, an assistant is able to explain but because there are rarely assistants for the deaf, it means the deaf are stranded or signing things they do not fully comprehend. If workers in these fields are trained to communicate with the deaf that will be a big step towards creating a more inclusive community.
Now we wait…
Room 28 Creatives were not in a position to give a date when they will make the application available to the public as they are still seeking funding to finish development of their project. I hope this project is in the public’s hands sooner rather than later because it’s a positive step towards a more inclusive community.
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