Internet and mobile base assistive technologies have been used around the world to improve the standard of living of persons with disabilities. Let’sTalkSign, India Signing Hands, SonantTech and Signable are few such innovations from India that have aided those with hearing impairments. In spite of the availability of above solutions, the hearing impaired and deaf community in Sri Lanka face major challenges in communication and learning sign language due to the lack of facilities and resources available for the development and proliferation of local sign language.
Deaf and hearing impaired persons within the Sri Lankan Tamil community face even more difficulties in terms of access to communication tools catering to their specific learning needs.
LIRNEasia in partnership with the Yarl IT Hub, Jaffna and Nuffield School for the Deaf and Blind, Kaithady launched a project aimed at addressing the above problem. The project titled, Inclusive Technology for Persons with Disabilities: Mobilization in the Northern Province is a part of the disability research LIRNEasia is conducting in India and Sri Lanka with funding from Ford Foundation.
The project will act as a platform to bring together tech developers of North and Eastern provinces of the country, teachers, students and parents from Nuffield School for the Deaf, representatives of Disabled Persons’ Organizations (DPOs), along with community organizations that have collaborated on assistive technologies for the deaf from Northern and Eastern provinces.
The project kickoff meeting was held on 3 July 2021 with the participation of representatives from LIRNEasia, Yarl IT Hub and Nuffield School for the Deaf and Blind. This meeting included a preliminary discussion on concepts, opportunities and challenges in developing assistive technologies. Ground level information shared by teachers of Nuffield School for the Deaf and Blind, some of whom were deaf/hearing impaired added a lot of value to the conversation.
Yarl IT Hub will facilitate a series of virtual co-ideation workshops with the participation of tech developers and domain experts who will conceptualize potential solutions through in-depth analysis of assistive technologies to provide viable solutions. In line with the policy of “Nothing about us, Without us”, these workshops will be conducted with the active participation and contribution by different stakeholder groups mentioned above.
The immediate beneficiaries of this initiative will be the present and future students of Nuffield School for the Deaf and Blind. Further work will aim to create awareness with the tech developer community in Sri Lanka on being conscious about the importance of considering accessibility and inclusiveness of technologies that they develop.