Today was the International Day of Sign Languages, and so as part of the day’s activities, Huawei announced the release of its StorySign app for iOS, and also announced two new books for Australia’s deaf community (but kids in particular).
StorySign is clearly a passion project for Huawei. I’ve spoken to a number of staff, in Australia and overseas, and the message is the same – the company wants to use technology for good, and if it can’t use its technology to change the world, at least it can change it for some and do something good. It’s a passion for doing something good, but also for using fantastic technology for a genuinely good outcome.
For deaf kids, StorySign might just be the something good that helps.
The premise is quite simple. StorySign uses a range of technologies to help deaf and hard of hearing children with a number of tasks. Superficially, it takes a written form – a popular kids book – and translates it in real time to AusLan (the sign language of Australia’s deaf community).
However, it does more. For kids who have never heard English spoken, the connection between seeing a word on a page and the noise it makes doesn’t exist, and for many, it may never. Equally, sign language has different words, vocabulary and grammar than you or I might be used to, and there are complexities in learning sign that I certainly can’t fully comprehend.
Consider, then, that I could go and learn sign with full use of my faculties (vision and hearing), and compare to a deaf or hard of hearing child who has to learn sign with no hearing, and in some cases, even limited vision. It’s truly something else.
StorySign aims to bridge that gap, even if only in a little way. By helping kids to pair the English language words from a book to the sign language representation, kids can make the connections between English words, grammar and rules and those which apply to Auslan.
Huawei isn’t just playing around, either. It’s StorySign app has already been downloaded some 35,000 times, and opening it up to iOS users will only increase that adoption rate. Huawei Australia’s Larking Huang isn’t content to stop at 35,000 users:
… we’re changing the lives of deaf children in Australia and around the world. But we don’t want to stop there, we’re committed to growing our app to ensure that all children can enjoy story time. The new books and iOS availability mark an important step towards achieving this.
It’s a commitment that’s welcomed in Australia and around the world. Here, Huawei is working with Deaf Australia, the peak body for the deaf community here. Internationally, the company is working with national and international bodies (such as the European Union of the Deaf) to pursue the same goals – to help address the issue of literacy amongst deaf and hard of hearing kids.
As part of this work, Huawei has released an additional two books for Australian (or, precisely, Auslan) readers – joining Eric Hill’s ‘Where’s Spot?’ and ‘All About Spot’ are ‘There’s a Dragon in Your Book’ by Tom Fletcher and ‘Ten Minutes to Bed Little Monster’ by Rhiannon Fielding. There’s also ‘Max the Brave’ by Ed Vere.
Internationally, StorySign is used in 11 countries (including Australia) and in 13 languages. Huawei has released 52 new books in the last six months, working with animation study Aardman (behind shows like Wallace and Gromit) and experts in the deaf community.
Speaking on today’s announcement, Kyle Miers, CEO of Deaf Australia, said
“The support that we have received from Huawei to date has had a genuine impact on deaf children and their families. Through our ongoing partnership, we are continuing to work closely to ensure that StorySign reaches as many families and communities as possible, helping us get one step closer to our shared ambition of helping more deaf children learn to read.”
StorySign can now be downloaded on Google Play and on Apple’s App Store, free of charge.