sign language in public settings for people who are deaf.
Writing notes as a way to communicate with people who are deaf is convenient, for people with normal hearing, and recommended, by people with normal hearing. In the world of hearing people, recommendations for using note writing as a way to communicate with people who are deaf is common.
Communication at work. Employers are advised to supplement their communication with employees who are deaf by writing notes. For example, Equal Access Communication, an advocacy organization suggests that supervisors may wish to keep a white board or a chalk board by the work area of an employee who is deaf. The supervisor is reminded to keep the writing simple and concise, first establishing the subject to be discussed and then providing an explanation. Further, the supervisor is reminded that the person who is deaf may experience difficulties understanding idioms or double negatives, such as "I never told you couldn't do that." The advice to the supervisor is well meaning, but it is inadequate as it does not establish the reasons why the person who is deaf may have difficulties with written language. This omission can lead to misperceptions about people who are deaf.
Communication about healthcare. Dentists and healthcare providers often wear masks when directly providing care to patients. For people who are deaf, this can present a hardship and impact the very important communication that occurs between a doctor and her patient, or a dentist and her patient. If the person who is deaf can lip read, wearing a mask precludes use of that skill by the person who is deaf. Even if the patient who is deaf is unable to read lips, he or she will not be able to understand much of the non-verbal communication that results from being able to see and interpret peoples' facial expressions. Additionally, as one sign language interpreter emphasizes, if a person who is deaf does agree to use note writing as means of communication in a healthcare setting, writing in "broken" or incorrect English is an indication that an interpreter should be used for future communication. In fact, healthcare personnel should determine if the appointment should continue on that day, or if it should be rescheduled for a time when an interpreter will be present for the entire appointment.
Communication in legal situations. Writing notes and lip reading may be effective modes of communication for simple situations like making appointments or giving directions to a different location. But the complex communication that goes on in legal arenas is chock-a-block with legal terminology and legal words that will be unfamiliar to the person who is deaf. For this reason, family members should not be used as interpreters in legal situations for family members who are deaf. It is likely that the family member will not understand or correctly interpret much of the legal terminology, and as an additive factor, family members may be have emotional or personal involvement that colors their communication. Confidentiality is sometimes an issue for family members, too. Lip reading is not recommended in legal situations, even when people who are deaf indicate that they are proficient lip readers. Under normal conditions, only about one-third of spoken words are understood by lip readers. When communication is about legal considerations, where unfamiliar and complex legal terms may be used, "even an adept lip-reader will miss upward of 70% of spoken English words" (Teplin, 2008).
ASL is not just another form of English. Writing notes in English or relying on lip reading of spoken English in order to communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing is quite common, but it can result in confusing or frustrating communication situations. For most people in the U.S. who are deaf, English has been learned as a second language. American Sign Language (ASL) is generally learned first by children who are deaf from their parents and family members. The grammatical structure of English and ASL differ substantively, so learning to read and write in English is a challenge to children who are deaf or hard of hearing. In fact, these children may never attain the same levels of proficiency in reading and writing English as their peers with normal hearing. These differences are attributable to bilingualism or bimodalism, and are completely unrelated to innate intelligence.
To bridge the gap between ASL and English, another form of sign language was developed. This version of sign language is Seeing Exact English (SEE), and its structure exactly parallels that of spoken and written English. Seeing Exact English is commonly used in school systems with young children who are deaf or hard of hearing as a way to promote learning to read, write -- and where appropriate -- speak English. But SEE is not widely accepted or used in the community and culture of people who are deaf. Most people who are deaf must rely on interpreters in situations where every word is important and word meanings must be exact. But interpreters are commonly considered to be expensive and many services that people who are deaf must access do not willingly provide interpreters, even though the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that the communication services provided to people who are deaf be "as effective as communication with others" (Teplin, 2008).
In order to assist people who are deaf to function more effectively and satisfactorily in the hearing world, interpretation services must become technologically based. Websourd, a new technology platform in France, employs the world's first sign language interpreter avatar. The technology is designed to ensure that people who are deaf can access information wherever they go, in a manner that is linguistically and culturally a match. The platform will provide parallel services for people who are deaf to all the forms of communication that are based on oral, auditory, and visual means. For instance, in Paris, Websourd has been installed in a major train station and will soon be used in 150 train stations across France. The design and implementation of the avatar tool, and training information about its use and application, are provided by a French team of sign language experts.
In addition, a commercial team in France is promoting use of Visio technology to enable people who are deaf to be autonomous in work settings and in public settings. Visio technology uses video phone calls which are facilitated by sign language interpreters in remote settings.
Technology has become a great leveler. People can access more information than they can every process of use via the Internet. And technology is incredibly well-suited to visual communication, as the upsurge in digital mobile communication demonstrates. The addition of ASL, a language within itself, to digital platforms can effectively eliminate the barriers previously associated with a lack of qualified and available sign language interpreters needed for the purpose of effective communication in situations where hearing is presumed and is normative. Clearly, the use of digital platforms to communicate information to people who are deaf in public settings is functional and appears to be on the cusp of widespread adaptation. What is needed now is the application of this technology in private settings, such as legal realms, medical and dental clinics, and workplaces.
The purpose of this research is to explore perceptions and receptivity to the use of sign language avatars on mobile digital platforms in private service settings such as those described above.
Research design and research methodology.
Conceptual framework. The proposed research would use multiple methods, incorporating both qualitative and quantitative approaches, to explore the adoption of technological platforms that support ASL in private service settings and workplaces. Specialists in healthcare, law, and employers will be interviewed and respond to surveys that delve into their perceptions about adoption of innovative technology as a support…