Competitions

$500,000 Grand Challenge Wants Tech Innovations in Deaf Literacy

Of an estimated 32 million children around the world who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind, four in five lack access to education, and just 2 percent get instruction in sign language. Because early exposure to sign language builds a stronger language foundation, those without it are affected in education, employment and social interaction.

Of an estimated 32 million children around the world who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind, four in five lack access to education, and just 2 percent get instruction in sign language. Because early exposure to sign language builds a stronger language foundation, those without it are affected in education, employment and social interaction.

A new, $500,000 "grand challenge" hopes to change those numbers and the outcomes by encouraging people and organizations to come up with innovations for increasing access to local sign languages and boosting opportunities for deaf children to gain better language and literacy skills. The competition was announced at the third International Conference of the World Federation of the Deaf, which took place recently in Budapest, Hungary.

The Sign On for Literacy challenge is specifically seeking technology that will expand access to sign languages and literacy interventions in developing countries.

The competition is being led by All Children Reading, an organization that runs a series of grant and prize competitions that use science and tech to "source, test and disseminate scalable solutions to improve literacy skills of early grade learners.

The challenge is being managed through InnoCentive, a platform for crowdsourcing problems. Criteria for judging in the first phase will cover functionality (such as, "Does this innovation provide a creative method for collecting/documenting local and varied signs?"), cost, usability and scalability. "Supplemental points" will be issued for innovators who are deaf themselves or if the applicant has already identified partners in the deaf community that would let them pilot or further develop their innovation, among other aspects.

The program is accepting applications through mid-February from people interested in participating in the competition. Following review, those selected to advance will be awarded seed funding to develop and pilot their innovation.

The competition "purse" will be distributed in three phases, the first targeting innovations with the capacity to increase language and literacy outcomes with big impact, the second for creating a prototype of the innovation, and the third on refining the prototype.

To learn more, visit the application site on InnoCentive and the Sign On for Literacy Prize website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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