Designing websites and apps for deaf people

Deaf people are visual people. Deaf people love iconic clues, colors and shapes. Deaf humans love pictures and movies.
Movies should either be subtitled or voiced over in a sign language. Except when the movies are created natively by the deaf community, in their own language.

When we develop a website or an app at signfuse, all these things are incorporated. More even, also our development phase is natively visual, as is our language.
As a deaf company, we take care to assure the projects we create are natively suited for deaf people.

Designing a website or app for deaf people starts by designing a visual interface from scratch. You may choose to base your interface on a written language, a signed language, or both.
Each language has its audience. Each language has its attached culture and technical potential. Language can be anything from scientic and formal to dramatic and poetic.
At signfuse we play with language to shape your websites and apps the way they should be. Vibrant, engaging and full of use, inherently satisfying your deaf audience.

We, as deaf people, we love all things visual.

How to create websites like Signfuse does

When one create a website, you actually try to solve a problem.
And that problem is brought to you by the client. Without the problem, the customer would probably not be looking for you in the first place.

Now, many web developers, if not most, may tell to have the solution: a website! Because that’s what they do, they create websites.
But what they don’t do, is to dissect the problem, to look at it from many angles, and to make a bespoke solution that targets the real issues.

As such, we think it is very important to listen to the customer, much like a psychotherapist. Write evrything down, and let it sink in for a while.
Give yourself the time to see the issues from a new perspective every day.

Then get pen and paper. Because nothing is as free and liberating. With pen and paper about everything is possible. Even the impossible. Only the mind is the limit.
Draw. Write. Scribble. Scratch. Play. Visualize solutions. And then involve your customer. Show the client the visualisations, and get brainstorming. Let them modify your sketches, let them break it into a thousand pieces and let them play with the remains. Look carefully what direction they take your visual material into. Much like a psychotherapist. It will offer you the insight of their perspective. And when you know their perspective, you know why they have a problem. You will know where they get stuck.

And that’s where your technical knowledge comes into play. Only then. And only for a small part.
That’s when you will start designing the website in photoshop, extending the visualisations you made. You still believe everything is possible, even the impossible. But you use your technical knowledge to find a path to the solution, though incorporating impossible but amazing ideas. And then you have a wonderful image of a website designed in photoshop. A website that looks real, but isn’t interactive yet.

That was, what I like to call, the phase of magic. Now the solution has to become real. And that means transforming the wonderful images to code.
This is another step where many people fail. They can’t code. They set up a template. Or a CMS with a template.
That’s okay. So do we. It’s the fast track. But it’s only a small part of the solution. The bigger part is tweaking and reconstructing the CMS, which is also not too difficult for real web devs, but yes, this requires serious technical knowledge.
The most important part, though, is to make the magic happen. This is about writing or getting the code right, so you can extend the power of the CMS right to the core of the solution to your clients problem. A website should not be template-centric but solution-centric.

Third time’s a charm

Signfuse applied for EU funding three times.

A first opportunity appeared when our long valued customer Onno Crasborn (Nijmegen University) chased the EU call for “Technologies for Digital Content and Languages”. Onno made a very nice proposal in 2013, but unfortunately we didn’t hear from the European Union again. The project was not dismissed, nor accepted, which appears to be their way of handling project applications when their budget has run out on higher-ranked projects.

In 2015 Ulrike Zeshan (University of Central Lancashire) tried to win a call for the European Research Council (ERC) together with Signfuse, but again, we didn’t get any news from the European Union.

In 2017 Noémie Churlet (Media Pi) got us on board of a third opportunity. We applied for an Erasmus+ project. And we won!
The whole application was accepted as is. It was a relief. We’re very happy.

The project will take off this fall. The goal is to create the first dedicated e-magazine with the objective to improve the schooling of deaf pupils, and to enhance their access, participation and performance within the education system

Partners are: Association Média’Pi (France), L’Apprimerie (France), Yomma (Germany), Istituto Statale Per Sordi (Italia) and Liceul tehnologic Special (Romania).

We’re very much looking forward to executing this exciting project!

Accu DVD ‘Open Doors’

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

31th of January, the ACCU team will present their new DVD, “Open Doors”, which covers accessibility in musea.

Signfuse has provided access to the DVD for sign language users.
A part of the DVD, the introduction, which is about 7 minutes long, is translated into international sign by Sven Noben. The translation didnt happen to be litterally because of the nature of international sign.

We’d wished to have translated the whole DVD, so that the menu and everything would have been accessible in sign language. Unfortunately there was no budget to make this possible.

But as the purpose of this DVD is rather to make people managing a museum aware of the needs for “disabled” (excuse me the word) people, we are very happy to have contributed our share in making those people aware of the needs for Deaf people.

We strongly hope this DVD will ave its effect and make sign language appear in musea all over Europe.

The DVD “Open Doors” will be presented in Kiasma, Helsinki, at 15:00 on 31 january 2007.

Click here if you want to know more about Culture for All

Video: Recognition of Flemish Sign Language

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

26 april 2006 has been a very special day for Deaf Flanders. Flemish Sign Language has been recognized by law on this date. SignFuse was there and created a video documentary.

SignFuse has gifted this documentary, titled “Recognition of Flemish Sign Language”, to Fevlado and the Flemish Deaf Community. Fevlado has presented “Recognition of Flemish Sign Language” for a large audience during the World Deaf Day in Hasselt. — Source: SignFuse Sign Language Media

As the recognition of Flemish Sign Language would be a historical moment for all Deaf generations, for the dead and the unborn, I was very encouraged to create a documentairy about the event.

Here, in Finland, every single event of importance is motion captured. I’m pretty used to it and a giant archive is available. As you can note in my reportage The Power of Media for the Deaf, the first film in Finland had even been recorded a century ago, in 1907.

That the Deaf community of Flanders, the root of my being, doesn’t have the access to such a proud heritage of moving images, touched my heart painfully.

Deaf people have to be proud to believe in themselves. Now what’s a better resource for proudness than a glorious history? Okay, there are many written resources, but isn’t the eye of a Deaf person the channel to his heart?

I had the great opportunity to watch the archive of the Finnish Culture days of the Deaf (kulttuuripäivät). I was really impressed. About 25 hours of video had been recorded over a timespan of +- 40 years.
The archive revealed changes in Deaf mentality, Deaf culture and more. It was highly revitalizing to see those people alive, showing their frustrations and joys.
I have made a selection of the best video’s out of this archive for the ceremonial movie of the 50th Culture Days.

As Flanders would have Flemish Sign Language recognized, and no professional or semi-professional person was going to film this, I felt it as my duty to fly over and back and capture this historical moment on tape.

Fevlado, the Flemish Association of the Deaf granted me support and paid my flight, for which I am very thankful.

And off I went, 1 day back home with a 3CCD cam, really happy about the joyful event, but even more happy I could save this day for the generations to come.

In assistance of reporter Hilde Verhelst I captured 2,5 hours of film, of which I would finally destillate a 20 minute documentary in Final Cut Pro.

The result has been gifted by SignFuse to the Flemish Deaf community and Fevlado.

Fevlado will sell this movie, “Erkenning van de Vlaamse gebarentaal”, in DVD format.

You can also view this video online at Google video, but unfortunately Google is twisting our nicely 16:9 formatted video to a crappy 4:3 format.

Many thanks to Hilde for reporting.
Many thanks to Fevlado to make this historical document possible.

Title: Recognition of Flemish Sign Language
Length: 20’54” – Language: Flemish Sign Language
Format: DVD or view online

Win $100 by Vlogging for DeafRead

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

DeafRead does a great job by supporting the growth of Deaf Vlogs. It proves this by awarding the best Vlog about DeafRead by 100$.

Update: This contest has been won by Jon Savage – Congratz! His video can be seen on YouTube.

If you know ASL and have a webcam you can give it a try! You can find more info on their website: Blog Contest

By doing this, you’re not only make a chance to win, but even better, it offers you a great opportunity to make your way into vlogging, and enrich the vlogosphere with a higher presence of ASL.

I wish all the Deaf vloggers in the world, both inside and outside the contest, the very best luck to win. The prize is not neccesairely $100, but certainly a happy audience enjoying your Vlog!

The contest closes on December 1, 2006

Mobile Guide in Sign Language

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

The the Finnish Museum of the Deaf is very concerned about creating access to their collection for sign language users.

They used to have a computer standing in a corner of the museum. The computer provided explanation on diferent topics presented throughout the museum. The information was accessible in different languages, such as written Finnish and Finnish Sign Language (SVK).

This system has been serving for many years, but with one big disadvantage: The computer was situated in a corner of the museum, so the visitor had to run from the collection to the computer each time s/he wanted explanation.

One simple word, already mentioned in the title of this topic, became the keyword of the solution: Mobile.

The Finnish Museum of the Deaf knocked on the door of SignFuse with the wish to have a mobile guide for their museum.

We didn\’t have to think over this twice, as it was the kind of project we\’d always wanted to do.

We decided to create the interface for sign language users in the first place, and only in the second place for users of spoken or written languages.

This was a great asset, as our design could be created with a very different perspective, the sign language view.

First we made a paper prototype and tested it with several visitors, recording their actions on videotape.

Analyzing the user behavior was extremely helpful in discovering imperfections of the project model.

Together with Juhana from Omnivis we started coding and researched different handheld computers.

Today, there’s no more rushing in the museum. Deaf visitors can easily wander around collections with all the information right in the palm of their hand.

People can now simply select a topic they want more information about in their sign language of choice.

The mobile guide nowadays provides information in 5 different languages; English, International Sign, Finnish, Finnish Sign Language (SVK) and Swedish.

The guide was first presented at the Finnish Culture Days for the Deaf, and later for an international audience during the Deaf History International Conference in Berlin.

People generally reacted very positive to this new tool.

Today SignFuse and the Finnish Museum of the Deaf are already planning on a new and more advanced version of this mobile guide.


Sign Language Spam?

This is a very old post (2006), written by Sven Noben, founder of Signfuse. Several data (and links) in this article may be outdated.

Geez, the last few months my inbox gets loads of annoying, poorly inspired letters. “You have to read”, “You require to read”, “You must to read”, “You should to read”.

Apart from the horrible english, where have those more sensational (and shocking) titles been? I’m citing: “Break through walls with your c***!”, “Viagra falls” or a just more kindly “I LOVE YOU!” – Bang! bye computer…

Spam, it’s the nightmare of every self-respecting internaut. Thanks to efficient Bayesian spamfilters, most shocking topics get filtered out. That’s why spammers try nowadays with boring keywords such as: “you … to read”. The word is changing to mislead the smart filters.

During my 9 years online presence, I have heard about spam in about any language in the world.

But, wait, not about sign language spam

Thank god I haven\’t ever received spam in my mother tongue! My white, sweet language, shall thou remain thy innocence, takest mine eyes.

Just imagine spam would be spread in a sign language, that would be really bad. Filters, nor any algorythm is smart enough to decode a message delivered in a sign language…

Hence, the power of our language! Computers can nowadays decode realtime handwriting, speech and even images. But never has any software succeeded to decode a simple signed message!\r\nSign language beats technology 🙂

But anyway, as technology gets cheaper, the chance to get a spam message in sign language in your inbox is getting closer. And your filters won’t block it out, or they will have to block any incoming video.

But honestly, somewhere, I’m pretty curious how such a sign-spam would look like, just for once, for a good laugh!

Would there be this woman explaining me in ASL how viagra works?

Or would a Deaf man tell me I MUST buy a fake rolex? If he’s smart, he’s wearing a mask, not to get recognized by other Deafies. That’d be funny!

Getting sign-spammed in sign language. The dark side of sign language media in the future… Let’s hope it never happens!

Anyway, would it ever happen, anyone who has seen the first spam in sign language, email it to me straight away! I need a laugh!