Sign language for your cellphone

If you live in the UK, you now have an access to a dictionary of 5,000 words in British Sign Language (BSL) and their accompanying downloadable videos for your cellphones. The interface of this video dictionary, available at Mobilesign.org is even more Spartan than Google's home page. But it's very easy to use: you either search for a word to know if a language sign is associated with it or browse an alphabetical list. Then you download the compact video for your phone. The Centre for Deaf Studies (CDS) of the University of Bristol has released this free tool for everyone who works with deaf people, has deaf customers or just want to learn the BSL signs. Their next step will be to provide users with a phrasebook.

If you live in the UK, you now have an access to a dictionary of 5,000 words in British Sign Language (BSL) and their accompanying downloadable videos for your cellphones. The interface of this video dictionary, available at Mobilesign.org is even more Spartan than Google's home page. But it's very easy to use: you either search for a word to know if a language sign is associated with it or browse an alphabetical list. Then you download the compact video for your phone. The Centre for Deaf Studies (CDS) of the University of Bristol has released this free tool for everyone who works with deaf people, has deaf customers or just want to learn the BSL signs. Their next step will be to provide users with a phrasebook.

The structure of Nanoident's organic sensorsOn the left is a picture of a user of this new Mobilesign service (Credit: CDS).

You'll find additional details about this dictionary by reading this University of Bristol news release, "Sign Language at your fingertips, anytime, anywhere." This service was developed at the University's Centre for Deaf Studies (CDS) to satisfy the needs of the 4,000 Signstation users. [Signstation is the CDS's sign language resource website.]

The approach of these researchers is pretty refreshing. While I was searching for some of them on the CDS website, I was welcomed by a short video -- with sound -- but in sign language.

For example, watch Jim Kyle, the Harry Crook Professor of Deaf Studies. About this new service, he said that "this is a first step to providing support to hearing people’s communication with Deaf people -- anywhere and at any time. From our research, we have identified this point of contact as a major issue for Deaf people in shops and daily life. The next step for us will be to construct a phrasebook in order that more extensive interaction can be supported."

Linda Day, Sign Language Lecturer at the Centre, added: "Apart from the obvious use to access signs when you need to meet a Deaf person, it will be of great value to students of sign language and to parents -- who just need that sign at that moment in time."

If you know about similar services in other countries and for other languages, please send me a note.

Sources: University of Bristol news release, March 6, 2007; and various websites

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