- Expression Australia (supported by the Telstra Foundation’s Tech4Good challenge)
The cause of exclusion for the Deaf and hard of hearing community is not lack of hearing, but because so few people have learned Auslan.
Auslan Anywhere connects Auslan learners to creators fluent in the language. It’s different from formal Auslan courses or Signbank dictionaries. Learners send requests for phrases they want to learn and Creators respond in short, bite-sized videos.
By blending paradigms from social media and language-learning apps to create something new, we designed Auslan Anywhere to close the communication gap between Deaf and hard of hearing people and their community in a fun, inclusive way.
Auslan Anywhere was designed from the ground-up with its users. Every decision made was led by insights from engagement: from aesthetics to featureset to community content guidelines.
This close engagement with future learners and creators (people fluent in Auslan) let us design a product representative of the Deaf community that is intuitive and engaging for learners. Working with Deaf users, we gained a first-hand understanding of what design patterns, visuals and features were culturally relevant and desirable. We ran three rounds of usability testing and iteration to ensure Auslan Anywhere’s usability and accessibility for people of all abilities.
Almost 20,000 people use Auslan to communicate daily but for most of Australia, the language is a mystery. This communication gap is especially apparent for hearing people and their close deaf connections: family, friends and children. Auslan Anywhere better connects the hearing world with the signing one by increasing awareness and literacy of Auslan.
We’ve designed a rigorous measurement and iteration plan to evaluate the impact of Auslan Anywhere on three audiences and their relationships: ‘creators’ and ‘learners’ interact directly with the product, while ‘connections’ are the intended end beneficiaries of the product.
Putting the Deaf and hard of hearing community at the centre of our work to design a beautiful, functional product demonstrates the value of a participatory design process. Careful consideration for the culturally relevant design patterns (such as avoiding the overuse of written english in the product), shows that by deeply understanding the needs of your users leads to accessible design, and accessible design is good design.
Auslan resources usually focus on words and grammar with in-depth courses teaching conversation. Auslan Anywhere teaches Auslan in a new way: phrase by phrase and peer-to-peer. It’s designed to be picked up on the go or in your downtime, not studied.
For creators, we designed a creation experience that is fast and intuitive, and makes space for personal style by encouraging individual expression in unstructured video content.
For learners, we focused on contextualising the diversity of Auslan across Australia and from person-to-person by having multiple videos from different creators for each phrase, and prompting continuous engagement with weekly digest emails.
We defined key product principles and measures to drive purposeful design and growth for Auslan Anywhere into the future:
– Excitement: Sparks curiosity and delight
– Personalised: Enables customised and flexible access to teaching and learning tools
– Inclusive: Creates safe space for diverse expressions of Auslan and English
– Understanding: Increases Auslan literacy and encourages the development of language learning and teaching skills
– Connection: Taps into the human desire to learn and connect with others