This past weekend, I stumbled across what could be the biggest advancement in sign language technology there has ever been. Two University of Washington student won a $10,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize by creating gloves that translate sign language into speech. This is something that could be just the thing that can bridge the gap between the hearing and deaf culture. This is perfect timing for the summary blog post because all the past posts information is actually turning into something.
I also had the chance to talk to my friend about this breakthrough in science you happens to be deaf, and she was very interested them. However, she posed some important questions such as: How would the hearing person communicate back to the deaf individual, could you quickly go about you every day like with them, and would this make the hearing culture more reluctant to learn sign language?
However many questions this poses it truly is amazing just how far technology has come. The technology for sign language isn’t very much (in the real world aspects only not in the classroom) and it’s more just researching about the culture and understanding that there are bridges that need to be built so that two beautiful cultures can come together and respect and appreciate one another.
University of Washington Article on Students
So over the weekend, I had the chance to go home to my family and spend some time with them. While I was there I was able to talk to my mom about my overarching questions abut technologies that would impact deaf culture the most inside and outside the classroom. My mother is a physical therapist, so she is involved in some of the everyday challenges they face. She told me about some of her patients that are deaf and just the immense challenge that she faced trying to adequately communicate what she needed to with them. She was saying how some of her patients had access to assistive technology however many times they were broken, and didn’t work, or the family didn’t have the funds to afford the technology to help them communicate.
My mom gave me some advice about maybe talking to some who is deaf and getting their perspective because as much as I try and put myself in their shoes I could be missing something that impacts their life on a daily basis that I never realized. They coul have ideas or problems that the face every day and I might be able to come up with an assistive technology solution.
My mother also told me another story of a conversation she had with the mother of a deaf child. The woman’s daughter was now living on her own and grown, but there was something that separated her from some of the deaf community. She was what they call deaf “proud” and she refused to use technology to help her hear or communicate with the hearing world. She didn’t want to have an implant nor did she believe that she needed to try and fit into the hearing world. I found this interesting and very eye opening. Sometimes people just want to be who they are and not bridge the gap, and that is entirely okay.
When I first started reading about technology within the deaf culture, I honestly thought that their technologies would impact their lives just as technologies aid in hearing culture every day. However, when telephones or radio or weathering warnings were invited they never actually helped the deaf community like the did individuals who can hear. I never really considered how all the advancements in technologies had the potential to be disadvantages for the deaf community. When you sit down and think about you daily life and how much you rely on you hearing to get you through the day you can start yo understand ow difficult it can be to no be able to hear. Just going to a restaurant to eat can be difficult if the appropriate technologies are not available. If the restaurant only has loud speakers, how are they supposed to know when they name is being called. Its all a culmination of little things that can make daily tasks challenging.
You can imagine the separation that the hearing and deaf communities have created. What I want to see happen is that technology bridge the gap between the two cultures and one of the first examples I found of this is the video chat in drive throughs at fast food restaurants. It was a few months ago I saw a video of a StarBucks drive through when a deaf teenager was able to order her drink through the video chat. However small that may seem it does make a difference in people’s lives.
With these advances, I hope to see more and more video chat boards in drive-throughs around the country. Some people may say that there aren’t many individuals who can translate American Sign Language (ASL). But that is a problem within the deaf community right now. There is a shortage of translators for deaf persons to go to the doctor, g to the store, just doing everyday activities. So along with more technology, there would have to be more translators.