Persons living with hearing impairment can now access vital services through their mobile phones at affordable prices, without necessarily using a sign language interpreter on board.
assistALL, an innovation by Signs Media Kenya Limited, becomes the first mobile phone app to provide sign language interpretation services in Kenya.
The app, which was initially developed to bridge the communication gap between deaf persons and healthcare providers at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, is now being utilized in other sectors such as higher education, general healthcare, judicial system, government services and finance.
assistALL is also creating employment opportunities for sign language interpreters, who have the potential to earn a consistent income as the app brings them closer to their customer base without having to consider the logistics of travel, thus being able to serve deaf people, an important step to promote inclusion of deaf persons by enabling them access essential services.
Speaking during the launch, ICT and Broadcasting Chief Administrative Secretary Maureen Mbaka said the assistApp, shall reduce communication challenges experienced by health service providers.
“From now henceforth, doctors or nurses who don’t understand Sign Language, can diagnose illness and administer medication to the people with hearing loss via this app, hence improving delivery of healthcare to this critical population,” said Mbaka.
She further elaborated that the App, shall ensure that communication between suppliers who are hard of hearing and government agencies is seamless.
The CAS noted that the absorption and employment, of all qualified sign language interpreters across the country to work as assistive service providers elevates the app to the level of major employers in the ICT space like Uber that have given equal opportunity employment to Kenyan youth.
Mbaka cited that, participation of over 260,000 people with hearing impairments in the market, either as contenders or voters, is a right that cannot be denied thus urged the stakeholders of assistAll to consider enabling the IEBC through this app, to facilitate communication of the voters with impaired hearing and aspirants during the forthcoming general election.
“The Government of Kenya has invested heavily in Technical and Vocational Training institutions for the youth, aimed at creating well rounded and work-ready individuals. Now with assistALL, the participation of the hard of hearing in our TVETs should increase, ensuring equal education opportunities for all,” added Mbaka.
Speaking on behalf of Social Protection, Senior citizens Affairs and Special Programmes PS Nelson Marwa, the Director Administration Samson Wangusi said the assistive technology App shall improve the participation of persons with disability in social and economic development in the country.
“We are happy to note that assistALL App, will ensure that persons with hearing impairments who are greatly impeded by communication barriers will now attain their highest aspirations,” said Marwa.
He noted that the App will also support the government in its agenda towards disability mainstreaming.
Marwa assured that the government is keen on supporting partners such as Signs Media, who are playing a major role in ensuring access to information for persons with hearing impairment.
He thanked the development partners such as the United Nation Development Program (UNDP), Foreign, Commonwealth Development (FCDO) and Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) that have been on board to facilitate the different stages of assistALL development.
assistALL operates on a per second billing platform, and with as little as sh.30 one can access a sign language interpreter. The app can be downloaded through the Google Play store on android devices. The target is to achieve 10,000 downloads by the end of 2022 and so far, more than 500 users have downloaded the app.
According to research conducted by Signs Media Kenya Limited, the mobile ownership disability gap in Kenya is 11%, meaning that persons with disabilities are 11% less likely to own a mobile phone than people without disabilities.
The research further shows that the gap widens for smartphone ownership, as persons with disabilities are 72% less likely to own a smartphone than persons without disabilities.
By Catherine Muindi