Schools work with students who have special needs to make sure they are able to communicate their needs and understand them. We work with children on this from the time they are little until the time they graduate from high school. This process can be a challenge for a variety of reasons, and it may be easier to do with some students. There are always going to be some individuals who will struggle with this and we must continue to work on ways to help them.
Children who are unable to talk because they are deaf or hearing impaired may not be understood by someone in school if they do not know American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is key for many of these children to be able to communicate and feel independent. Signing is their language and allows these individuals to express what is on their mind in the moment without writing something down if they are unable to talk. The powerful part of ASL is that you can learn more from the other features. ASL is a visual-gestural language. The hands are important, but so is the face. Every little inflection that is used with eyebrows, head tilt, and body language adds to what the hand motions are expressing. Now imagine not being able to understand this from your student and not having an interpreter.
The future of ASL translation is being developed right now by SignAll. SignAll is the first automated sign language translation tool that will take ASL and translate it into written English. While only in a prototype right now, it will help enable everyday communication with people who use ASL and those who do not. Fully automating this process is difficult because you must be able to incorporate all aspects of ASL. This means the hand movements and other factors like facial expression, ASL registers, prosody, and use of space. To assist with the technology, SignAll has teamed up with Gallaudet University. This university is a private university for the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
Schools with deaf and hearing impaired students need to keep up on this new wave of technology. Once perfected, SignAll will have many uses within a school. It will further assist students who need to communicate something with an adult who is not fluent in ASL. In addition to this, there is a social connect. It has the potential to help friends of children who use ASL to understand their classmate in the moment. This may also encourage more of the child’s friends to become interested in learning ASL.