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Sign language gamification

Making the sign language learning process more accessible through an open-source card game

About the project

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a lot of focus on communication problems with the deaf and hard-of-hearing community since face masks made lip reading and relying on facial expressions impossible. After the Dutch news addressed the issue, a movement started making transparent face masks. However, nothing changed permanently and talking about the subject ended up being nothing more than a trend. Nevertheless, decreasing news coverage did not mean that the problem no longer required attention. 

 

I used my design practice to delve further into the issue and create a possible solution. However, I found it important not to increase the pressure on the deaf and hard-of-hearing community and therefore looked at how I could motivate the broader public to learn sign language instead. 

 

During my initial research, I found that people were open to learning sign language but experienced existing methods as overwhelming. This feeling was mainly caused by having to learn too many signs to be even able to communicate some introductory sentences. Therefore I started to look into ways to simplify this. I came across something called fingerspelling, which is used to communicate new findings in science by spelling letters with hand gestures. This allows for anything to be communicated through only 26 signs.

 

The next step was finding a way to familiarise people with the 26 signs. Gamification is one of the most effective methods of learning a new language. However, since we were still in the middle of a pandemic, I wanted to create a game that people could access and play from the safety of their own homes. I developed an open-source card game that could be downloaded and printed at home. The goal of the game was to get 35 points as quickly as possible by spelling words with sign cards. When someone had formed a word, that person had to sign that word to the other players. This way, the game allowed players to practice signing by doing it. 

This project was done independently. During this project my role included: problem identification, academic research, concept development, illustration, UX and UI design, prototyping and user testing, and evaluation and iteration.

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