People with severe or profound hearing loss face daily communication problems mainly due to the language barrier between themselves and the hearing community. Their hearing deficiency, as well as their use of sign language, often makes it difficult for them to use and understand spoken language. Cyprus is amongst the top 5 European countries with a relatively high proportion of registered deaf people (0.12 per cent of the population: GUL, 2010). However, lack of technological and financial support to the Deaf Community of Cyprus leaves the Cypriot deaf people unsupported and marginalised. The paper aims to discuss this issue.
This study implemented user-centred design methods to explore the communication needs and requirements of Cypriot deaf people and develop a functional prototype of a mobile app to help them to communicate more effectively with hearing people. A total of 76 deaf adults were involved in various stages of the research. This paper presents the participatory design activities (N=8) and results of usability testing (N=8).
The study found that users were completely satisfied with the mobile app and, in particular, they liked the use of Cypriot Sign Language (CSL) videos of a real person interpreting hearing people’s speech in real time and the custom onscreen keyboard to allow faster selection of text input.
Despite advances in communication aid technologies, there is currently no technology available that supports CSL or real-time speech to sign language conversion for the deaf people of Cyprus.
The authors would like to thank the Deaf Community of Cyprus and the Cyprus Deaf Federation for their participation in the study. The authors are particularly grateful for the support and interest shown by all deaf people who have taken part in the data collection and the evaluations of the mobile app. In addition, the authors would like to give a special thanks to the official deaf interpreter of the Deaf Community in Cyprus, Ms Panayiota Themistokleous who was present in all meetings and sessions and helped for the meeting arrangements and the recording of the sign language videos.
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