DG JUSTICE of the European Commission (EC) has awarded a twelve-month pilot project grant to a consortium led by the European Union of the Deaf (EUD) for improving the communication between deaf and hard of hearing persons and the EU institutions.
The project, called INSIGN, is carried out jointly by the European Union of the Deaf, Designit, IVéS, SignVideo, Heriot-Watt University and the European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters.
The project INSIGN has been designed to empower deaf and hard of hearing (HoH) persons to communicate with their political representatives and public administrations, eliminating the communication barriers that currently exist at EU level. To achieve such an ambitious objective, the project will take into account national sign languages and also captioning (real-time text communication), as these are the main communication tools for deaf and hard of hearing citizens.
‘Sign language’ is the term used to refer to a group of languages based not on sound and speech, but on the visual-gestural modality. Sign languages emerged naturally wherever there were communities of deaf people. There are almost 1 million deaf people in Europe; to a large extent, deaf communities revolve around sign languages as they are their natural means of communication: the spoken language of their country or region remains as foreign or second language. Although deaf, hard of hearing and hearing signers can communicate without boundaries amongst themselves, there is a serious challenge for the deaf community in trying to integrate into educational, social and work environments, as the vast majority of non-deaf Europeans do not have signing skills.
This communication barrier also exists when deaf sign language users or hard of hearing citizens try to communicate with EU institutions. As almost all people who work in the EU institutions, including administrators and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), use oral languages, there is a need to involve sign language interpreters or to provide for real-time text solutions to enable the communication with citizens who are deaf or hard of hearing or sign language users in the EU institutions. A substantial part of the difficulties in relation to the provision of sign language interpretation for all EU languages is related to organisational aspects, in particular the need for advanced planning and booking, coordination and the cost of human resources (including travel and accommodation), as well as infrastructure.
The INSIGN proposal intends to give response to the European Parliament decision of 10-13 December 2012 for the implementation of a Real-Time Sign Language Application and Service, following an evident need, as there is currently no direct communication access for deaf or hard of hearing citizens to Members of the European Parliament and administrators of the institutions of the European Union and vice versa with deaf or hard of hearing person inside the EU institutions.
The members of the INSIGN consortium are:
1. European Union of the Deaf (EUD, Belgium): Not-for-profit ENGO comprising National Associations of the Deaf (NADs). This is the only organisation representing Deaf sign language users at European level.
2. Designit (Spain): Global strategic design firm making innovation happen for the world’s most
ambitious companies. Founded in 1991 in Aarhus, Designit has 15 locations worldwide with 300
professionals creating design and innovation strategies, products, services, applications and spaces for
Fortune 500 companies and innovative brands such as Audi, BMW, L’Oréal, and LG. Inspired by users’
experience, they work at the interface between business, design and technology. Designit has extensive experience in international project management and will act as administrative coordinators, supporting EUD in the day-to-day management tasks.
3. IVéS (France): The first total conversation software supplier for VRI, VRS, captioning but also e- health and videoconferencing. They developed the djanah technology in which INSIGN is based, and have a proven track record in several countries.
4. Significan’t (UK) Limited (trading as SignVideo, United Kingdom): British company acting as a VRS/VRI service provider at National level and complementing IVéS expertise. It is Deaf-led, has a proven track record in providing immediate access to online video BSL/English interpreters for local and national government, health services, private sector companies and financial institutions. It is the UK leading company in online video interpreting services and solid experience in remote captioning relay services.
5. Heriot-Watt University (HWU, United Kingdom): Participating through the Department of Languages and Intercultural Communication, they will provide the academic foundation of knowledge required for developing such a service in relation to the Deaf community and video-mediated communication, and will provide the empirical evaluation of the demonstration of the platform and service. HWU has an extensive academic network of interpreters, lecturers and researchers.
6. European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters (efsli, Belgium): Not-for-profit NGO comprising national associations of sign language interpreters. It is the only organisation representing sign language interpreters at a European level, counting with a very wide network of SL interpreters/organisations. efsli fosters a vision of a European-wide high standard of sign language interpreting services which enables interpreters to fulfil their work in a professional manner. As a result providing equal access to all EU citizens, including Deaf and hard of hearing persons.
For more information contact: Mark Wheatley [email protected]