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Deaf Communications
Signing Hands   Communication Access for the Deaf Project

This project sets out to give Deaf users a practical way of communicating in their own language, South African Sign Language (SASL), and at the same time highlight policy impediments to the widespread adoption of such a solution. This strategy allows us to take action that makes a difference and reflect on the outcomes and their implications for policy making.

There are a large number of Deaf people using South African Sign Language; it is estimated that there are at least 500 000, while the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA) put the number of SASL users at over 1.5 million, making it one of the bigger language groups in the country.

Research Questions

Can camera equipped cell phones as well as handheld and personal computers be used to pro­vide an effective low-cost and natural communication tool for Deaf people who use sign lan­guage?
How does the current policy on wireless WiFi communication affect access to communications for Deaf people using South African Sign Language?
How does policy on accessibility for the disabled and on language impact on making signed communications accessible to Deaf users?


  1. Build a Deaf to Deaf signing communication system via video links using Internet Protocol (IP) and a combination of cell phones, handheld devices, and computers with wireless protocols such as WiFi, 3G and GPRS. We start with PCs (laptops with built-in camera) since they are easier to program and then move the system onto mobile handsets.
  2. Investigate the use of store-and-forward video which may be a cheaper and more effective alternative to real-time video. Combine text and video to let them augment each other for Deaf to Deaf communication.
  3. Improve the user interface for the Deaf to make video easier to use. Investigate possible use of gesture (not sign) recognition in the interface.
  4. Conduct field trials at the Bastion of the Deaf in Newlands, Cape Town, with Deaf Community of Cape Town (DCCT) — a grassroots NGO run by Deaf people to serve the needs of the disadvantaged Deaf community in Cape Town. Field trials also include another Deaf NGO based in Cape Town: SLED (Sign Language Education and Development —

HistoryTelkom's Teldem

In 2000 Telkom introduced the Teldem for text based communica-tion by Deaf people. Glasser involved in the trials.

In following years (2002–2006) Tucker investigated text to voice and voice to text technology. Involvement with the community showed that this was not actually what was needed and the current project grew out of this: Deaf people want tools to enable them to communicate with other Deaf people at a distance.


Bill Tucker (UWC), Meryl Glasser(SLED), Adinda Freudenthal (Delft).

Group Photo