RIT/NTID earns international All Children Reading prize

Mel Chua (Co-PI), Stephen Jacobs (Senior Personnel), Tommie Sarchet (Senior Personnel), Kim Kurz (Co-PI) and Chris Kurz (PI)

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf is one of five organizations from around the world that has earned a $250,000 grant to create literacy content for deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development announced the winners of the first phase of Sign On For Literacy, a global competition to source technology-based innovations that increase access to local sign languages and advance language and literacy outcomes among deaf children. Chosen by a panel of experts from a field of more than 100 applicants from 39 countries, each of the five phase-one winners will receive $25,000 in seed funding to pilot their innovations during the next phase of the competition.

RIT/NTID will develop open source software that enables communities to create literacy content in their country’s local and national sign languages to be shared via an open-content digital library of folktales. These digital libraries will be viewable from any web browser, can be hosted locally and remixed by individuals (including children) with simple text and video editing tools.

The RIT/NTID team, which includes Christopher Kurz, Mel Chua, Kim Brown Kurz, Tommie Sarchet and Stephen Jacobs, collaborated with the Philippine Federation of the Deaf and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde to develop their proposal and will work together to bring folktales and sign language to deaf and hard-of-hearing Philippine children.

“Deaf and hard-of-hearing children around the world have limited access to literacy and deaf adults who use indigenous sign languages,” Christopher Kurz, one of the project leaders, said. “Our team’s innovation project includes folders of indigenous sign languages and folktales, so deaf children can learn the sign languages and read the stories with sign language support.

“We are firm believers in using technology to bridge indigenous sign languages to written languages, so deaf children can enjoy reading, thus broadening their access to language and learning.”

Launched in 2011 by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), World Vision and the Australian Government, All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development is a series of competitions that leverages science and technology to source, test, and disseminate scalable solutions to improve literacy skills of early grade learners in developing countries.

Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized as a leader in computing, engineering, imaging technology, fine and applied arts, and for providing unparalleled support services for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. RIT is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Established by the U.S. Congress in 1965, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf is the first and largest technological college in the world for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. NTID offers associate degree programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and provides support and access services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who study in the other eight colleges of RIT. NTID also offers a bachelor’s degree program in sign language interpreting and a master’s degree program in secondary education for individuals interested in teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Deaf and hard-of-hearing students come from all over the United States and around the world to take advantage of the opportunities available to them at RIT/NTID.

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