“Can you hear me now?” “No.”

by Omar N.

Click Here - Sign Language
Taken from www.LearnAmericanSignLanguage.org

In the article titled, “Making Web Content Accessible for the Deaf Via Sign Language”, the German author argues that the web is prejudice against deaf people and gives a statistic that says 0.1 to 0.2 percent of any given population is deaf. It is explained that while it is true that information on the web is primarily exchanged through text, a large majority of those who are deaf tend to be illiterate. The reason for their illiteracy comes from the fact that reading and writing is learned after becoming familiar with oral language. Without a spoken language foundation, grammatical rules and vocabulary become a much greater challenge to comprehend for those born deaf. So much so, that many children drop out of school before learning basic reading and writing skills.

To complicate things even further, sign language has its own set of rules that are not the same as spoken languages, so translating written words into sign language is not so simple. Being the only form of communication they understand, sign language communities have developed on places like YouTube where knowledge and information can easily be exchanged through videos (How they can post videos without being able to read, I have no idea). The author believes that static videos do not fall in line with the idea of web 2.0, however. Sign language videos lack anonymity and editing a sign language video in Wikipedia fashion is no easy task. The author goes on to say that the deaf should not be left behind in the digital information age and that they should be able to have a “barrier free” web experience. A call to action is proposed that suggests the deaf be included in the target audience during the creation of a website.

After reading this article, I have to say I disagree with the author’s conclusion. Yes, the deaf should have access to the same resources as any other person. So should the blind, the handicapped, people that only understand a foreign language, and just about everyone else in the world. We should design our websites so that anyone can visit it and read the content regardless of their native language or form of communication. Would it be more fair? Yes. But, is it practical? No. I really wish equality existed on the internet, but the truth is language is bias and so is its creation. Also, not every deaf person is illiterate, but just the ones that had difficulties at an early age. The author is looking for a treatment and not a cure. There should be more focus on helping deaf children and not giving up on them so easily instead of rewriting the internet. Just a thought.

I do see an opportunity here, however, so let’s do the math. If there are close to 2 billion people on the internet and say 0.2 percent of that population is deaf, then we can assume that there are 400 million people on it that are deaf. For the business minded, that is 400 million potential customers for a product that can bridge the technological barrier between sign languages and written forms of communication. Now that is a good sign.

Reference:
Möbus, L. (2010). Making Web Content Accessible for the Deaf Via Sign Language. Library Hi Tech, 28(4), 569-569-576. doi:10.1108/07378831011096231

2 thoughts on ““Can you hear me now?” “No.””

  1. I have to agree with your point that the internet needs to be universally fair to everyone’s own abilities. Also it will lead to more companies targeting communities that are at a disadvantage to understanding traditional text communication and the creation of software to aid them.

  2. As I know, sign language can be understood regarless to country. Therefore, making web using sign language not only help deaf people to have access to the Internet, but also help people who do not know English to unserstand our language. I think that is good idea.

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