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Multilingual work spaces for sign language users: An online portal driving social innovation.

This project pilots a social innovation by translating some of the findings of MULTISIGN (“Multilingual behaviours in sign language users”), funded by the European Research Council, into an online portal that facilitates signed transnational communication by deaf people and provides activities that increase metalinguistic awareness about the multilingual use of sign languages.

MULTSIGN showed that compared to spoken language users, signers have a unique enhanced potential to communicate across language boundaries. In SIGNSPACE, which is also funded by the European Research Council, we are using our MULTISIGN data and analyses by shaping them into a resource with educational units that support the upskilling and remote signed communication of deaf people, especially those from developing countries.

The portal also provides a service for setting up flexible multilingual online work spaces for transnational groups of signers, with a sign-to-sign-translation tool for terms that are linked to specific areas of work, such as education or literacy. This will allow signers from developed and developing countries to engage in international contact, sharing materials and expertise.

In our joint work with specialist company Dolphio Technologies in Hungary, we are designing and testing the technical infrastructure; conducting demonstrations, training events and workshops in Indonesia, India and Nicaragua; and developing a business plan for the portal’s longer-term sustainability after the project period.

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The photo shows the participants at our SIGNSPACE workshop in Bekasi, Indonesia, in May 2017.

Prof Ulrike Zeshan

  • Nick Palfreyman
  • Phil Howarth
  • Jenny Webster
  • Dolphio Technologies
  • Kang-Suk Byun
  • Sibaji Panda

European Research Council, EUR 149,723

(Project ID: 737587)

  • International contact and knowledge exchange between sign language users in developing and developed countries.
  • Access to information for signers from disadvantaged communities, e.g. on bidding for funding sources, lobbying for linguistic and educational rights, building capacity for organisational development, and understanding legal provisions such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • Driving social innovation through the portal by building transnational cooperation among deaf signers, especially in the educational sector.
  • Building the linguistic and meta-linguistic skills of deaf people, which increases their employability and quality of life.
  • Increasing opportunities for South-South (global) and East-West (European) collaboration among deaf communities through the specifically configured work spaces in the portal.
  • Facilitating more effective and closely targeted development cooperation by directly reaching and engaging the actual beneficiaries in underdeveloped deaf communities.