Facilitating Communication for Deaf Individuals with Mobile Technologies

Communication between deaf individuals and hearing individuals can be very difficult. For people who are born deaf, English is often a second language with the first language being American Sign Language (ASL). Very few hearing people in the United States sign or are aware of Deafness, Deaf culture, or how to appropriately communicate with people with hearing loss.

In this thesis, I concentrate on the role that mobile technologies can play in ameliorating some of these issues. In formative work with Deaf teenagers in the metro-Atlanta area, I investigate the role that communication technologies play in the lives of many Deaf individuals and examine how these devices have effected their communication patterns and social circles. Specifically, the teens identified problems communicating with hearing individuals such as close friends and family in face-to- face situations.

Having identified sign language use at home as one of the earliest interventions for Deaf children, I investigated the use of mobile phones for learning survival-level ASL. I created a prototype software application which presented short ASL lessons via either a mobile phone or desktop web-browser. The software presented the lessons via one of two different scheduling methods designed to take advantage of the spacing effect during learning. I designed and conducted a study of forty individuals with no prior ASL knowledge which compared the effects of both scheduling algorithm and platform. My results show that individuals who used a mobile phone platform and received a group of lessons at one time performed better on post-test receptive and generative ASL metrics than did participants in the three other conditions.

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