Sign Language Ambassador Visits RWTH Aachen


Colin Allen, president of the World Federation of the Deaf, WFD for short, recently came to visit SignGes, the Competence Center for Sign Language and Gesture at RWTH Aachen. The native Australian is deaf himself and is considered to be an ambassador of sign language world-wide. In Aachen he caught up on research projects and visited the state-of-the-art studio, where professional sign language videos are being produced.

  Group in front of a green screen Copyright: © Peter Winandy WFD president Colin Allen (on the right) meeting with the RWTH team at the Competence Center SignGes.

Presentations gave a complete overview of the work being done in the Competence Center, which was officially founded in 2013 and is currently under the direction of Professor Irene Mittelberg. Already before its inception, for a time span of about 20 years, research projects in the area of sign language had been conducted at RWTH, carried out by enthusiastic teams under the guidance and supervision of Professor Ludwig Jäger. One development that is now being used by more than 50 organizations in all of Europe is a battery of psychological tests to examine vocational aptitude especially of deaf applicants. The next step was an internet software to assist deaf employees in professional training. This project has continually been developed further, so that, today, the complete learning software offering includes approximately 12.000 videos in diverse areas, such as business administration or English, for instance. A daily update furthermore informs users about the latest news and developments.

"Gateway" and "Deaf Train" are other successful projects that have been developed. They focus particularly on students with impairments of the senses. With the help of these programs the hearing impaired and also blind persons can access the same content as those without any impairments, but the topics are specifically edited for each target group. People with disabilities can access information about courses of study or take part in e-learning offers unhampered by barriers. The project "Deaf Exist" is slated to run until 2018 under the direction of Dr. Klaudia Grote and offers a training program for company founders. It assists the deaf and hearing impaired in creating a business plan and helps them explore their product's or business idea's chances for success.

Another target group for research at RWTH are teachers, since, by 2020, 65 percent of deaf or hearing impaired children are supposed to visit a regular school. That is why a DeafGain study group has been formed this year at the SignGes center. Particularly concepts that are geared to improve lessons for hearing impaired children are being discussed. Colin Allen praised the Competence Center's commitment and deemed the research projects to be an important contribution to better communication between the hearing and the hearing impaired. To him, research is also an indispensable part of the further development of sign language.

Source: Press and Communications