Award-winning approach to sign language in Pallaskenry school

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

FOUR Transition Year students at Copsewood College, Pallaskenry have signed up to success with a new app which will help hearing people to understand and learn sign language.

FOUR Transition Year students at Copsewood College, Pallaskenry have signed up to success with a new app which will help hearing people to understand and learn sign language.

Combining high technology with high human values, the four were this week putting the last details in place to protect their new product for mobile phones through copyright and patent.

Niftily calling themselves Sign4Life, the quartet is made up of Colleen Mullane, Pallaskenry, Fiona Mangan and Caoimhe O’Neill, both Kildimo and Ciara Reidy, Patrickswell.

Already, the four have tasted success by winning the innovation award earlier this month at the Junior Achievement Company Programme, a competition sponsored by Dell and GE Capital Aviation Services. And this Tuesday, they learned they have now qualified to move on to the Munster heats of the competition.

“It is an amazing opportunity for us that we got to do this,” the company’s managing director Colleen explained. It was a huge chance for them to work with business people and to deal with the real world, she said.

But, adds Fiona: “What our real motivation is, is to help the deaf community to communicate with the hearing community.”

For their Transition Year, they began learning sign language , says Colleen, but were particularly inspired by a talk given by Maria Allen, principal of the School for the Deaf in Limerick.

Initially, the fledgling company thought about doing a website but then felt an app (or application) which could be downloaded to a smart phone would be more useful and user-friendly. “We went and visited the school and the Deaf Community Centre and we had their support. We needed their support to go through with this,” Colleen explains.

They conducted a survey in Limerick city which concluded that people would be interested in an app, and would be prepared to pay up to €5 or more for it. The survey also gave them some indication of the market they might expect to attract by asking people if they knew people who were deaf and if they had ever wanted to communicate with deaf people.

The resulting app includes an introduction, an alphabet, and contains signing video-clips for some 100 words, Caoimhe explains. The signing was done with two signers at the Deaf Community Centre. But, adds Caoimhae: “This is just a start. Then we can add to it.”

The app is initially designed for use on Android smart phones and if that proves successful, they may well look to get into the Apple store.

For the Junior Achievement Company Programme competition, the girls’ business plan was assessed and at a trade fair in Dell Ireland Limerick, Ciara explains, they had to set up a stall with all their information. “We made business cards and a power-point presentation,” she adds, pitching at 11 “Dragons” from Dell.

Now, the four have moved on to the Mundster challenge and expect to have their app ready for sale by the end of March costing just €4.49