Will sign language avatars ever replace sign language interpreters?
As a consortium, we are aware of the possible sensitivities in the deaf and sign language communities, to the automatic translation of spoken and sign languages as well as the use of sign language avatars. It is not the intention of our SignON App to replace human interpreters in the future. As a consortium member, EUD is continuously conducting surveys and interviewing members of the DHH community in order to assess and better understand the concerns and expectations of these communities. They assess the expectations from the communities about the different settings in which they would or would not use the SignON service (e.g. brief communications, talking to a doctor in a hospital, watching television shows, etc.). We strongly believe that human sign language interpreters are very valuable and can never be fully replaced by sign language avatars. However, we are convinced that the SignON App could be an alternative tool for different situations where one cannot/will not rely on a human interpreter. It would not be an obligation, but would be an option for the user, broadening the spectrum of communication media at their disposal.
Why does the SignON project only work with the languages English, Irish, Dutch, Spanish, BSL, ISL, NGT, VGT and LSE?
These languages have been chosen for the development of the SignON application and framework due to the expertise of the consortium partners. During the three years of EU project funding, the use of these languages will showcase the applicability and usefulness of the SignON framework. The plan is that this framework will be extensible, allowing new languages (sign and spoken) to be easily integrated in future versions.
Why isn’t sign language universal?
Sign languages, just like spoken languages, have evolved naturally. Sign languages have developed out of human contact within deaf communities; in deaf schools, deaf clubs, etc. Since these concentrations of deaf people took place on a regional level, unique "local" sign languages emerged worldwide, with their own conventional sign language lexicon and their own grammar rules. These different sign languages were later recognised on a national level and most of them are named after the country where the sign language originated, e.g. British Sign Language, Dutch Sign Language and Irish Sign Language. Though, even within country borders there can be several recognised sign languages, like Flemish Sign Language and the French Belgian Sign Language (LSFB). Spain has Spanish Sign Language (LSE) and Catalan Sign Language (LSC).
Why do not all deaf or hard of hearing people use sign language?
First of all, it is important to note that being deaf is not necessarily related to sign language and vice versa. There are deaf people who do not use sign language and communicate orally. There are also hearing people who have sign language as their first language, for example, if they have deaf parents. There are also deaf people who can express themselves perfectly in spoken/written languages as well as in sign languages (bilingual). The reasons why a deaf or hard of hearing person does not use sign language can be very diverse. It can be dependent on the person themselves, such as not being interested or skilled enough, or not needing to because they can communicate orally. Many deaf or hard of hearing people who experience hearing loss at a later age do not choose to learn sign language. External factors also play a role in this; for example, the former ban on sign language in deaf education, parental choice, no access to sign language resources, society's view on sign languages, etc.
Does the SignON project focus only on translations between spoken languages and sign languages?
No, SignON looks at various different languages and modalities including text, speech and sign language and the translation between them all. For example, a piece of Dutch text can be translated to Irish sign language. Flemish sign language can be translated into English sign language. This English sign language can then be translated into spoken Spanish, which in turn can be translated in Dutch text. All of the combinations of these modalities and languages will be facilitated. Even a deaf or hard of hearing person with atypical speech can use the SignON application.

About SignON

SignON is a user-centric and community-driven project that aims to facilitate the exchange of information among Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing individuals across Europe, targeting the Irish, British, Dutch, Flemish and Spanish sign as well as the English, Irish, Dutch and Spanish spoken languages.
This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 101017255.
Designed and Developed by Ridge Digital