Hearing assistance: making connections easier through your phone


Brooke Selvidge

An animated person that will translate sign language into text for students who do not know sign language. (Brooke Selvidge)

Brooke Selvidge, Technology Reporter

In 2018, students from New York University created an app that translates ASL into text. The creation of apps like this could benefit people who do not understand sign language across the world as they add languages, and greatly improve communication between deaf and hearing communities. Don Lugo’s sign language teacher Mrs. Cienik, knows about the app and thinks it’s a great idea.

The apps that have been developed so far work off of the user’s camera, and track hand movements to translate them into text.  However, independent creations showcase room for improvement and prove that translation is moving forward on many fronts. For example, one group of students created gloves that also translate sign language into text.

Mrs. Cienik believes apps like this could be a big help to people who don’t understand ASL.  This should increase communication between people who know ASL and those who don’t, and could be a useful learning tool for those in the process.  However, she hopes kids who will use translator apps for learning won’t become dependent on them.

Cienik also thinks that this app will not take away from ASL itself, because according to her, there are two separate worlds: hearing people and deaf people. Applications like this may also open new opportunities for deaf people in traditionally hearing workplaces.  For instance, in a meeting, deaf staff may be able to communicate with other members without needing to worry about an interpreter.

As Mrs. Cienik puts it, translator apps could be, “A bridge to bring two separate worlds closer together.”  It’s been proven that technology is capable, and the world is waiting to see what could be done next for sign language communication.  For now, however, apps should be an easy and fast way to have simple discussions with fellow classmates that may be hearing impaired.