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Sign language processing needs interdisciplinary approach

Computer scientist Tessa Verhoef received a Best Paper Award during the ‘ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility’. The paper emphasised the need for interdisciplinary research in sign language processing. The authors state that linguists and computer scientists should collaborate with deaf individuals to understand the problems they face in everyday life.

Siri for sign language

According to the World Federation of the Deaf there are over 300 sign languages across the world. However, most of the communication technologies are designed to support spoken or written language. This forms huge communication barriers for deaf individuals. The usage of sign language processing should remove these barriers. In the paper ‘Sign Language Recognition, Generation and Translation: An Interdisciplinary Perspective’, the authors argue that an interdisciplinary approach is necessary for sign language processing. This way, real-world applications, like Siri for sign language, can be developed faster.

Interdisciplinary approach

The algorithms that computer scientists are designing now lack information on the structure of sign language and the needs of deaf individuals. An interdisciplinary approach where computer scientists work together with linguists and graphic designers should give them more insight in the structure of sign language. Furthermore, it is important to involve deaf individuals in research. Deaf individuals can help with tackling the constraints of the algorithms and make concessions if necessary.

About Tessa Verhoef

Tessa Verhoef is an assistant professor at the Media Technology master programme at the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science and conducts research on language, cognition, cultural evolution and computation. She also designs live exhibits to raise awareness for science. These exhibits are displayed in museums and at festivals. Last year, she was at Lowlands to investigate how stories change as we pass them on.

ACS SIGACCESS presents the Best Paper Award during their annual conference. This organisation supports scientists that are involved in making computer science and technology available to individuals with disabilities and elderly. The conference is a platform to pitch ideas and innovations concerning computer science and technology accessibility and a place to meet fellow scientists, doctors and other stakeholders in the field.

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