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Lugha-E-shara (LEA) App

Providing access to sign language as a basic human right for Deaf children born of hearing parents for their holistic development.

Photo of Nancy Wagi
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Name or Organization

Kenya Sign Language Movement is the name of our organisation and we have been operating as a team of four since January 2017 .We are currently on going registration.Nancy Wagi is the main contact person.By the end of march 2018,we should have fully registered organisation


The prototype will be initially done in Nairobi,Kenya,then East Africa and scalable globally

What is your stage of development?

  • New Innovator, with less than one year of experience in ECD


  • Team

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

Deaf children of hearing parents have a fair opportunity to achieve holistic development through acquisition of their native language,which is sign language in their formative stage from Deaf therapists

Select an Innovation Target

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

LEA App will teach sign language to children and parents at the same time.The App will be a data collection tool and safe environment to talk about Deafness and connect the families to a LEA center.LEA Centers are Deaf inclusion,child friendly community based centers where hearing parents/families with Deaf infants learn sign language from Deaf therapist and facilitators.Deaf therapists spend time with children in play to expose and stimulate their brains to learn sign lang which is their native language.Hearing parents are taught KSL by Deaf Facilitators. Hearing parents meet other hearing parents facing the same deaf culture challenge and grow in knowledge together as support groups.They meet other older Deaf children of hearing parents for inspiration and encouragement. LEA centers are safe community places where parents meet certified Deaf therapist who will spend time with their children through communicating in KSL.Parents also enhance their learning simultaneously through a Deaf facilitator.This allows the hearing parents plunge into the deaf culture and slowly minimize negative perceptions on Deafness and develop long lasting friendships with Deaf adults and ultimately become friends of the deaf community. The deaf youth facilitator’s have increased opportunities to gain decent employment,thrive through personal,professional development growth whilst creating positive impact.There is youth scourge-Deaf youth face layered challenges to accessing decent jobs

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

Inaccessibility of sign language to Deaf children born of hearing parents which leads to dysfunctional cognitive and social emotional development. This results to mental problems and high incidences of suicides are recorded amongst deaf youth Lack of correct information on deafness and language development to families which makes them expose deaf children to spoken language.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

Language development is critical to accessing and information which is the primal way of learning.A child will naturally develop language if exposed or stimulated within the first five years.This is the prime time for human beings to learn and develop language through formation of neuro patterns.Deaf children born of hearing parents face language deprivation because they are not exposed to Kenya Sign Language in this window period of their formative years.This is because 98% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents.99.9% of hearing parents are unprepared to nurture their Deaf child to learn their native language,which is sign language. Picture a mother with three hearing children, happily going on with her life. She is a road side vendor awaiting the birth of her fourth born. The child born is Deaf. She has never seen or interacted with deaf persons. She has vague information on Deafness. She is devastated, first, her spouse doubts the paternity of the fourth born. In both families, there have never been had deaf people. Secondly, the siblings have many questions which she doesn't have answers. She is afraid of sharing her” troubles” in the fear of stigma and accusation of bringing a curse to the family. These stressors could explain the choice to hide the child, miss to seek professional support and the child will potentially suffer emotional neglect and isolation. Therefore,deaf children miss a critical irreversible phase in human development where the brain plasticity is primed for language development.The grey matter that stimulates language development shrinks and the Deaf child has a permanent biological and psychosocial effects.There is no turning round the clock.This means deaf children will never be fluent in any native language. How then do you express you needs?How do you relate with people?How do you report abuse or discomfort?I know you are thinking,wait they are facial expression,we can interpret that!Deaf children who miss to learn sign language in the first 5 years can still learn sign language,however,they would never be fluent in sign language.The neuro paths were never formed rather they shrunk.Picture yourself having no particular language that you are fluent at ,not even English.That is the life of a language deprived Deaf child. The very fact that you can never effectively communicate means social emotional development is not fully realised.Interpersonal skills are never horned and what a recipe for disaster in a school set up.Deaf students inherently record poor performance and very evidently because of undeveloped grammar and lack of fluency in any language.Most mental problems and suicide cases are reported amongst the Deaf people.Deaf girls face double the hurdle.It is hard enough to be Deaf,add to that an oppressing culture, it is excruciating to be Deaf girl with no language fluency! Education access then to Deaf children is already missed right even before school! How can we then improve Deaf girls performance yet they have experienced permanent brain changes?They can never compete with a hearing child. To reverse this narrative,I propose an integrated parents Deaf inclusion curriculum that teaches parents,siblings and the Deaf child Kenya Sign Language(KSL) and Deaf culture.The KSL will be taught by deaf children therapists so the deaf children are stimulated to learn Kenya Sign Language as parents and sibling catch up learning KSL. This means they dont miss “again” as parents become fluent.This will be done three times in a week in deaf child friendly centres and the other days using online platform (an APP)to practise the skills together with the child.The parents register their interest using text messages.This APP will also be used to collect data on Deaf children population and seek for policy changes on deaf children education (introduction to KSL)to start at age zero not at preschool years.Education then for Deaf children starts at home not in school.This means all Deaf children will be ready to for school because she has language and her full brain!

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

The Deaf child gains a fair opportunity to life through learning its native language which is sign language. This means they achieve full cognitive and social emotional development through language acquisition.The brain is effectively stimulated within the right formative stages. The parents and siblings learn the realities of having deaf child or sibling.They immerse themselves in the deaf culture and slowly diffuse shame and stigma associated with deafness.They are better prepared to nurture their child and or sibling and develop meaningful relationship through effective communication. Eventually,the families will be spurred to be life time deaf inclusion advocates.Possibly,through the support groups form advocacy and policy teams to influence the government to make language access to deaf infants a basic human right. The deaf youth facilitator’s have increased opportunities to gain decent employment,thrive through personal,professional development growth whilst creating positive impact.There is youth scourge-Deaf youth face layered challenges to accessing decent job. The community through civic education and at large is spurred with empirical evidence of deaf centers success to re-look deaf people as positive diversity not as a liability.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

The LEA APP will be a spur and channel for advocating that sign language must be made accessible to Deaf children between zero to five years. This access should be made a basic human right for Deaf children to achieve holistic growth and development.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

Most children living with disabilities are born in poverty.Deaf Children who suffer from language deprivation are mostly from parents with low income and literacy levels.This is because of competing needs and chose to practically meet basic needs of food shelter and clothing rather than spend time learning a language for futuristic needs which seems far fetched.The survey by VSO Kenya and the Education ministry indicates that 63 per cent of hearing impairment incidents are in rural areas while 37 per cent are in urban areas.Parents in rural areas are more likely to hide their children due to close knit community set up which will mean "public" shame.This hiding is primarily done due to limited or no access to knowledge on deafness.Available information is mostly negative where deafness is viewed as curse or a punishment of a wrong committed by the family. This innovation seeks to meet this group of people most affected who are low income earners.People with high income have information or can easily access information;enjoy the choice and time to attend a course and possibly have individual classes at their convenience.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

According to (WHO, 2017) 360 million people globally live with hearing loss disability, its stated that 32 million of these are children. Children being defined as from age zero to fourteen years. This means the number could be more if this considered children up to the age of 18 years. The survey by VSO Kenya and the Education ministry indicates that 63 per cent of hearing impairment incidents are in rural areas while 37 per cent are in urban areas.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

We are at idea stage.This means we have empirical evidence on negative effects language deprivation on deaf children and this is a possible solution that we will be testing. Kenya Sign Language movement is an organisation that seeks to tackle Deaf Inclusion systemically through and by children.This was borne from previous prototypes in finding a solution to deaf inclusion. Please see link: Kenya Sign Language Movement is currently undergoing registration as a community based organisation as at now to formalize all our work on Deaf Inclusion since 2016.This organisation will host this project..We are planning to undertake our first prototype in January 2018.We will conduct focus group discussion with hearing parents to test the LEA App functionality.We will be asking ourselves the following questions: 1.How do we identify deaf children of 0-5 years with the possibility that they are hidden? 2.How do we work around the low literacy levels of parents? 3.How do we make this financially viable as we are working with low income earners-who may not afford smart phones and if they do,free wifi or sufficient data to run a course online,Will they get time to go to the centers at the expense of their livelihood?Who will we finance the development of the Tablet/APP? 4.How many qualified Deaf therapists are available to run the onsite centers? We have approached a reputable ICT firm that has developed tablets that do not require internet and are solar powered and a research institution to partner in prototyping and documenting learning from using the digital platform. Nancy Wagi is undertaking her graduate studies at Daystar University studying Child Development.Specifically,will conduct a comparative researcg on the causes of language deprivation in Deaf children of ages 0-5 years in Kenya.We have a vibrant dependable relationship with the deaf community in Kenya which is vital in the success of the advocacy work.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

We are team of four ladies.Our Deaf inclusion journeys started all so different and yet we are here altogether very clear that Deaf inclusion will happen when Deaf children are given fair chance to life through language fluency.Penny Waturi who is Deaf has dedicate her life to advocating for deaf inclusion. She faces the dominance and the privilege of the hearing community.She is knowledgeable working with deaf children and also teaching sign language to children. Susan Wanjiku is an accomplished interpreter who loves mountain climbing and is photographer ,specializing in children!Ann Karau works with VSO as a Regional Programme Development Specialist.She brings on board 12 years of programme development nationally and globally.She is the strategic adviser and her role is program design,resource mobilization and alliance building. We are excited to have a long journey of an year of prototyping that now sit in the core belief of children are change makers and are an effective fit for systemic change.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

We will be keen to learn from APP designers who have developed deaf friendly APP's

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

Design thinking process

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information


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