I would like to share the results of a consultation IPAT recently provided that opened some new communication avenues for an individual whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL). The young woman we served has had a significant hearing loss since birth, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her mother asked to meet with us to explore assistive technology (AT) options for communication. The goal of our meeting was to identify AT that would allow her daughter to communicate during routine interactions with bosses, colleagues, and service industry staff that were unfamiliar with ASL.

This was a unique request, and afforded us the opportunity to explore a new subset of AT communication options. We knew that the individual used and understood ASL, but that the majority of her communication partners did not. So we were tasked with finding AT that would allow her to receive information spoken by another party in a format she could understand – either ASL or text. We did the research, and found iPad apps that convert voice to ASL and voice to text. Just what we were hoping for!

The first app is the ASL Translator, which has two parts. The first translates text or voice (if your device has voice capabilities) to ASL and is called Text-to-Sign-Language. The second teaches common ASL phrases and is titled ASL Phrases. The first part of the app is all that this individual needs for the community interactions anticipated. It is a $4.99 app available for iOS and Android devices, and requires a WiFi connection.

The second AT solution we suggested was to use the built-in Notes app with Siri enabled. It comes with an iPad and converts voice to text. This AT solution was offered as a no-cost, more mainstream option. It provides a written translation of the words spoken which then can be read by the non-hearing partner to continue the communication exchange.

Please note, these AT communication solutions are for every-day, spontaneous, typical work-place and community interactions; they do not replace the need for a professional sign-language interpreter.

When our AT findings were shared, all parties were pleased to discover there were options available. They found them simple to use and easy for unfamiliar communication partners to understand. This mother’s phone call led to everyone learning about existing AT to meet the need for expanding communication partners when ASL is the primary language. If you have a need you think might have an AT solution, give us a call at 800-985-4728 and together we will find out.


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