A Maker workshop for the deaf and Hard of hearing
Registration for current workshop series is closed.
Please leave a message if you would like to be part of this in future us. Thank you!
After our team won the James Dyson Award in Singapore in 2017 - Project PERI, some of us who had already graduated and working full time, wondered how we can make Project PERI come to live.
Before we proceed further, here's a little context about PERI:
TL;DR PERI receives the sound/notification from a microphone/application and then displays the appropriate light color and pattern to the user.
PERI was designed to allow deaf individuals to be notified about sounds in their environment using a RGB(Red, Green Blue) Pixel attached to an eyewear. To name a few, a door bell/knock, kitchen timer, fire alarm, a car horn, rain, dog barking, receiving a video call(no audio) and screaming for help. A simple setup using an Arduino or similar microcontroller(a cheap computer) and an optional accompanying app could solve this problem at a very low cost. For a hearing individual, this might not be a life-changer, but for a Deafie, being alerted about these kinds of sounds makes a phenomenal difference in their lives.
In order to improve our Design and make PERI better integrated into a Deafie's life, we felt that our team had to have a deeper understanding about the Deaf population. So we learnt a little bit of SgSL(Singapore Sign Language) and interacted with the Deaf Community to appreciate the Deaf Culture in Singapore.
Along the way we discovered a BIGGER Problem. Assistive Technology(AT) Products made for the Disabled Community are generally more expensive due to the small albeit growing market. During our interaction with the Deafies, we identified that they had several other problems which could be solved using simple DIY(Do it yourself) circuits build using microcontrollers such as the Arduino or Raspberry PI.
So I asked myself:
How might we Empower the Deaf Community to Make* simple solutions to their Daily Problems?
*Read about the Maker Culture here.
After some discussions with like-minded designers, engineers and individuals from the Deaf community, the idea of Deaf-a-Loper (a word play between Deaf and Developer) was born.
What are Deaf-a-loper Workshops?
A series of workshops to teach Deafies basic DIY skills using Arduino while Participatory Design approach to brainstorm ideas on how to go about solving everyday problems they face.
How did the workshops go?
What went well?:
A total of 10 participants had signed up for the workshop
We managed to conduct all of the sessions and participants were engaged throughout.
One of our team member's wife(Ding) allowed us to use her allocated interpreter for free during our sessions - utilizing some of her annual quota.
Several great ideas were generated during our brainstorming session.
Car Reverse Beep conversion to Visual Alerts
Portable Speech to Text Display using a RPI
Keyminder - to remind parent with dementia to take their keys
Participants also shared about how they are currently using their own DIY hacks to solve everyday problems.
We learnt the challenges of running a workshop with the disabled community, especially in terms of communication and having participants with varying levels of technical background.
Many great friendships were made and some hidden Deaf talents were identified.
Our team was made up of community-spirited volunteers who didn't hesitate to spend extra hours, $$$ and go the extra mile to support the participants during their learning journey
What didn't go so well?:
We faced struggles communicating with the Deaf Participants as there was a shortage of sign language facilitators. We should have had more facilitators who knew sign language, leverage on Speech to Text Tools for live transcription.
We faced difficulties in explaining technical terms using sign language
Participants were not able to finish developing their ideas.
How could the workshops be better?:
We could have either conducted more lessons on the coding or let participants learn coding themselves online before coming to the workshop - flipped classroom style.
We could have have a bigger ratio of hearing to non-hearing participants in groups with at least 1 participant who can sign - he/she can be the communication bridge.
We could find sponsors or industry partners who might be willing to make the ideas come to live as part of their CSR initiatives.
So What's Next?
A few of us - Universal & Inclusive design researchers - are exploring how we can bridge Makers with the Disabled community to solve their everyday problems together, inclusively.
If you have any suggestions or would like to partner with us, just drop me a message.
- Viren (7th June 2020)
I urge Designers and Developers to build products and services with Accessibility in mind so that everyone gets equal access and opportunities.