Breaking Barriers: Bhutanese Sign Language App for Inclusivity

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To enhance the learning of sign languages, the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf in Paro launched an app called Bhutanese Sign Language, marking the International Day of Persons With Disabilities.

Through the app, people can learn Bhutanese sign language to communicate with deaf individuals for better inclusivity.

Once downloaded, the app, which is said to be user-friendly, can be used offline. Users simply need to enter a word, and the app will display its sign language equivalent.

In addition to sign languages, the app includes features such as quizzes and a dictionary, among others.

Bhutanese Sign Language App Available for Download

The app is available on both iOS and the Play Store.

“The idea for the app came about when we realized that our Bhutanese sign language hadn't reached everyone, especially the hearing community. So, we submitted a proposal to the Bhutan Foundation, and with their funding, we were able to develop this app with professional input from Tech Park. The institute contributed to the concept and provided guidance during the app's development,” said Sushila Gurung, a teacher at the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf.

Through the app, the deaf community hopes for better inclusivity, enabling them to interact and understand what the hearing community has to say.

Inclusive Bhutan

“The problem isn't within the deaf community because we can communicate among ourselves, but we can't communicate with the hearing community. So, in order to achieve that, people who can hear must learn Bhutanese sign language and communicate with us to make it inclusive for us,” said Tenzin Dralha, an instructor at the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf.

“My family members can hear and speak, but they don't know sign language. Now, if they download this app and learn sign language, we can communicate easily. I would be happy to communicate with them and be independent. Moreover, when I go for job interviews, if the interviewers know sign language, it will be convenient for me,” said Tshering Yangzom, a student.

“If we can communicate through sign language, we can support and meet their expectations. So, I think it's important for teachers, parents, and everyone to download the app and learn sign language. Moreover, it's crucial for people in power to formulate laws and plan activities that are inclusive,” said Namgay Phuntsho, Vice Principal at Drukgyel Higher Secondary School.

“Sometimes, we forget the signs. In such cases, we can immediately refer to the app and interpret them correctly. Nowadays, everyone has a smartphone and can download the app to communicate with deaf people,” said Ugyen Nima, a teacher at the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf.

The app was developed at a cost of almost Nu 1.3 million. According to the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf, the GovTech agency will ensure the app's sustainability, while the institute will be responsible for updates and sign inputs.



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