Our Original Pitched Question:

Zoom decides who is speaking only based on auditory input, so for the Deaf community, this is impossible to use because everyone’s mic is off. Our question originally asked whether we could create a virtual meeting platform that takes in visual cues when assigning the speaker role, which would greatly affect ASL classes, classes at Deaf schools, and many Deaf community meetings and startups.

Summary Of Our Feedback:  

A lot of our feedback was supportive of our decision to develop a more inclusive communication platform, with many of the responses highlighting the importance in having this kind of addition to a virtual communication platform. Majority of our feedback determined our project to be moonshot material, but a lot of our constructive feedback challenged us to think a little bit bigger and broaden the scope of our project. We also noticed most people believed our topic didn’t concern language and the brain as much as the tech-heavy nature of our project.

Revising Our Big Question:

We originally decided to create a platform that takes in visual cues when assigning the speaker role, however because that would require a lot of background knowledge in technology, we decided to shift our moonshot focus to highlight the inequality of implementing early detection of deafness. This is not administered to everyone, and often leads to language deprivation. We want to create a system that ensures children who are born deaf are exposed to sign language and deaf culture early on and helps to connect their parents with the resources required to do so.

Our Possible Solutions:  

1: Have every child download an app on their phone: Once every child enters middle/high school, they are given an access code to a school-funded program that connects Deaf students to helpful and informative Deaf community programs and resources. The main reason why this solution is not feasible is because there would be a large accessibility issue, and would primarily work for children of higher SES households or those that go to well-funded schools.

2: Another possible solution we had was to allocate funding to Deaf community programs and curriculums that promote learning ASL and inclusion in the Deaf community. This solution would highlight the importance and lack of funding in these programs that affect a sizable part of the population. However, funding in these programs does not directly address the accessibility issue and lack of cultural competency the Deaf community faces everyday.

3: Add a google extension or Zoom extension, during school, that can be turned off/on depending on presence of Deaf community. As Zoom is currently set up, the only way to enlarge videos based on relevancy to the conversation is speaker view. However, in Zoom meetings where people are using ASL, it is impossible to automatically pin/enlarge the video of the signer. As a result, the videos are all very small and it is very difficult to follow along in class or in conversation. Adding a “signing view” would make Zoom more accessible for the Deaf community.

4: Have public Deaf schools in accessible places around the country. Currently there are not many schools for Deaf children and some of them are private schools requiring expensive tuitions. This solution would propose creating public schools that specialize in Deaf education.

5: Add a mandatory ASL/Deaf culture component to audiologist training. Audiologists interact every day with deaf individuals, but not all audiology students are required to take courses about American Sign Language and Deaf Culture. As a result, many audiologists only see deafness as something to be ‘treated’ or ‘cured,’ not something that is connected to a vibrant and robust culture.

6: Set up an ASL immersion public preschool. This solution would allow hearing parents to send their children to a American Sign Language immersion preschool to learn about ASL and Deaf culture.

Looking ahead: Our Two Best Ideas:

7: Create mandatory Deaf cultural competency/awareness training for social workers (specifically those assigned to deaf children at birth) (and those assigned to children who lose their hearing as a child (before age 5), physicians, and audiologists. Social workers are assigned to every deaf child, but not all social workers are trained in Deaf culture literacy and often approach their roles from a hearing-centric perspective. This training would be important because social workers may have the ability to influence and educate parents and ensure that the best interests of deaf children are kept in mind. Physicians already undergo mandatory training in cultural competency. This solution proposes adding a cultural competency course about Deaf culture and American Sign Language.

8: Add ASL to language apps like Duolingo. The lack of widely accessible and low-cost ASL language courses creates a barrier/deterrent for people to learn ASL. By adding ASL as a course offering on Duolingo, a widely popular and easily accessible language learning app, more people may take the initiative to learn ASL.