Kenya has made significant strides in ensuring that people living with disabilities run a normal and easier life in every aspect. The incorporation of sign language in the media, and specifically television broadcasts, marked a turnaround for people with hearing impairments.
An application to help the deaf is now helping to further broaden their incorporation in the business environment. The app known as assistALL was developed by Signs Media Kenya Limited and becomes the first mobile phone app to provide sign language interpretation services.
Luke Kizito, founder and CEO Signs Media Kenya said that they started working on the app in 2020 as lockdowns were effected due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Their aim was to facilitate communication between deaf people service providers such as banks, employers and hospitals.
Signs Media Kenya also runs Sign TV, a premier sign language television that runs on a social enterprise model with a focus to educate, inform and entertain in sign language. This has has widened opportunities and inclusivity for the disabled, particularly the deaf community.
Kizito said that the app works on per-second-billing. The user deposits money into the interpreter’s wallets using M-Pesa, Visa or PayPal to be able to access interpretation services virtually.
“Interpreter downloads the app when on data, select language and country, register details to create a profile and specialization (area good for your interpretation).” Kizito said.
The App was officially launched in April and is being used in various sectors such as higher education, general healthcare, judicial system, government services and finance.
During the launch, ICT and Broadcasting Chief Administrative Secretary Maureen Mbaka commended the developers for addressing a prevalent challenge in the community.
“From now henceforth, doctors or nurses who don’t understand Sign Language can diagnose illness and administer medication to the people with hearing loss via this app, hence improving delivery of healthcare to this critical population,”
In Kenya, there are about 500 qualified sign language interpreters serving a community of more than 260,000 people with hearing challenges.
Kizito observed that the interpretation services are generally high around the world, but the charges on the app are low.
“The cost is very low, as low as Sh30 per minute and one interpreter can serve many deaf people at the comfort of his/her homes,” he says.