To enhance the learning of sign languages, the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf in Paro launched an app called the Bhutanese Sign Language today. It was launched to mark the International Day of Persons With Disabilities. Through the app, people can learn Bhutanese sign languages to communicate with deaf people for better inclusivity.
Once downloaded, the app which is said to be user-friendly can be used offline. The users just need to enter a word and the app will show its sign language equivalent.
Besides sign languages, the app has features such as quiz and dictionary among others.
The app is available on both iOS and Play Store.
“The idea of the app came when we felt that our Bhutanese sign language had not reached everyone there, especially the hearing community. So, we put a proposal to the Bhutan Foundation and then with their funding, we were able to develop this app with professional input from the Tech Park. The institute contributed to the concept and provided guidance during the app development,” said Sushila Gurung, a teacher at Wangsel Institute for the Deaf.
Through the app, the deaf community hopes for a better inclusivity whereby they can interact and understand what the hearing community has to say.
“The problem is not with the deaf community because we can communicate among ourselves but we cannot communicate with the hearing community. So, to be able to do that people who can hear must learn Bhutanese sign language and communicate with us and make it inclusive for us,” said Tenzin Dralha, an instructor at Wangsel Institute for the Deaf.
“My family members can hear and speak but they do not know sign languages. Now if they download this app and learn sign language, we can communicate easily. I would be happy to communicate with them and I can be independent. Moreover, when I go to job interviews, if the interviewees know the sign, it will be convenient for me,” said Tshering Yangzom, a student.
“If we are able to communicate through sign language, then we can support and fulfill their expectations. So, I think it is important for teachers, parents and everyone to download the app and learn sign languages. Moreover, it is critical for the people in power to formulate laws and plan activities that are inclusive,” Namgay Phuntsho, Vice Principal at Drukgyel Higher Secondary School.
“Sometimes, we forget the signs. In such cases, we can immediately refer the app and interpret them correctly. Nowadays, everybody has a smart phone and can download the app and be able to communicate with deaf people,” said Ugyen Nima, a teacher at Wangsel Institute for the Deaf.
The app was developed spending almost Nu 1.3 M. According to the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf, the GovTech agency will maintain the sustainability of the app while the institute will be responsible for the updates and inputs of signs.
Namgay Wangchuk, Paro
Edited by Tshering Zam