eKitabu wins Phase One of Sign On for Literacy, a global competition for technology-based innovations to increase literacy among deaf children

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2018 – All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) today announced the winners of the first phase of Sign On For Literacy, a global competition to source technology-based innovations that increase access to local sign languages and advance language and literacy outcomes among deaf children. Chosen by a panel of experts from a field of more than 100 applicants from 39 countries, each of the five phase one winners will receive $25,000 in seed funding to pilot their innovations during the next phase of the competition.

“The innovations sourced through the Sign On For Literacy prize harness the creativity of the global community to develop technology-based solutions that can improve literacy and learning outcomes for the 32 million children around the world who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind,” said Colin Allen, president of the World Federation of the Deaf. “Only two percent of these children receive instruction in sign language, severely limiting their access to language and isolating them from society and opportunity over the course of their lives.”

Sign On For Literacy logo

Through Sign On For Literacy, the potential exists to scale solutions for use in any country seeking to broaden and enhance access to education and literacy materials in local sign languages.

“Throughout my life, I have been lucky to have the support of a family and school system that fully embraced sign language,” said actress Millicent Simmonds, star of the recent films Wonderstruck and A Quiet Place. “But for deaf children in much of the world, literacy is out of reach because sign language is not widely used or accepted. I am excited to lend my support to Sign On For Literacy as innovations are identified that solve this problem.”

The innovations selected to receive seed funding are:

  • A Sign Language Option for KitKit School,” developed by Enuma in partnership with the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness, will add sign language functionality to KitKit School, a tablet-based early learning program. In addition, the project will create a Sign Documenting App to empower communities in Tanzania and Kenya to record and incorporate local sign languages into the curriculum.
  • Señas de Sentido” (Signs of Meaning), a three-pronged innovation by Manos Unidas and the National Deaf Association of Nicaragua, will create a corpus of Nicaraguan Sign Language including videos and Spanish translations, a language-learning mobile app with downloadable lessons, and a literacy outreach program to train parents of deaf children.
  • World Around You,” developed by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in partnership with the Philippine Federation of the Deaf and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde in Manila, will document and collect local sign languages and create an open-content digital library of folktales offered in an interactive bilingual format integrating local signed and written languages.
  • Studio KSL,” to be implemented in Kenya by nonprofit eKitabu, will establish a local studio to document Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) through a visual glossary and produce KSL videos for integration into accessible books to be distributed across Kenya.
  • SignShare,” an open-source digital platform developed by Gallaudet University’s VL2 Center, will advance sign language literacy development by allowing users to create and share signed stories and resources to read, interact, and learn.

“Over years of programming—including the funding and piloting of multiple projects focused on children with disabilities—All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development identified deaf education as a critical gap that, left unfilled, would leave millions of deaf children around the world without access to literacy and education,” said Deborah Backus, World Vision’s acting project director for ACR GCD. “The innovations sourced by the Sign On For Literacy prize will help fill this gap and ensure that deaf children have access to literacy and education, a fundamental human right.”

These solutions will undergo two more phases of review and prototype refinement with the potential to win an additional $225,000. Additional details on each innovation can be found on ACR GCD’s website. The Sign On For Literacy competition is led by ACR GCD in collaboration with the World Federation of the Deaf, the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, and Deaf Child Worldwide.

About All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development
All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development, established in 2011 as a partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), World Vision and the Australian Government, is a series of competitions that leverage science and technology to source, test and disseminate scalable solutions to improve literacy skills of early grade learners in developing countries. For more information about the Sign On For Literacy competition visit AllChildrenReading.org or follow ACR GCD on Twitter @ReadingGCD or Facebook @AllChildrenReading.