South Tyneside Council worker's new app gives boost for sign language learners

PIONEERING technology devised by a council worker is helping little Sadie Hall know how much she is loved.

PIONEERING technology devised by a council worker is helping little Sadie Hall know how much she is loved.

With a dictionary of 750 words at her parents’ fingertips, new app Sign It is giving the Hall family the support they need to communicate with Sadie, who was diagnosed with hearing difficulties when she was born.

Thought to be among the world’s first sign language apps, the technology – which can be downloaded to phones and tablets – is already proving a hit with Sadie’s parents, Caroline and Colin, who have been piloting it.

The couple, who live with Sadie and son Robert, six, have both embarked on gaining their Level 1 British Sign Language (BSL) qualification in a bid to better communicate with their daughter.

Caroline, 35, a promoting health practitioner for Public Health South Tyneside who lives in Jarrow, said: “Sadie was diagnosed with hearing impairment during a routine NHS newborn hearing screening. Having a visual tool when identifying signs will help immensely with day-to-day life and with my studies.

“I’m looking to learn phrases such as ‘I love you’, ‘time to get up’, ‘going to play with your friends’ and ‘time for bath’.

“It’s really convenient the way I can download Sign It, so if I get stuck on a sign when I’m out and about, I can quickly look it up.”

With about 95% of deaf children being born to hearing parents, the app has the potential to help thousands of people, and siblings can also pick up the basics of sign language at the touch of a button.

Anyone wanting to know a sign for a particular word can type it in, and then a three-second video showing deaf children from South Tyneside signing it pings up on your phone or tablet.

The app is the brainchild of trainee teacher for the deaf Suzanne Williams, who works at South Tyneside Council’s hearing impaired service providing education support for youngsters aged up to 19.

She had her eureka moment while she was studying for her BSL Level 1 exam. She said: “There was nothing practical available to download, so I thought it would be an interesting project to explore and to incorporate the young people we work with on a daily basis.

“This is a great way of using technology to break down any communication barriers between the deaf community and to bring people closer together.

“It’s a fun and easy method to use that will hopefully provide a clearer understanding to those individuals who have little or no experience or BSL vocabulary.”

The system has been developed by web designer Tom Devlin and includes words such as angel, football, love, teacher, angry, phone and zebra.

Sign It costs £2.99 to download.


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