Updated: 04/23/2014 00:30

Two new apps for the deaf

Two new apps for the deaf

Two new mobile apps will enable the deaf community to communicate better and live safely. 

One converts speech into sign language. 

And the other notifies its users of alarms and sirens. 

Our news desk learns how these apps bring sound into the daily lives of the deaf. 

A siren like that would raise alarm bells for most people. 

But for the deaf community, the same siren gets lost in transmission. 

A new app promises to change all of that. 

Hearing Aide processes background sound such as the wailing of a police siren, fire alarm and ambulance. 

Once these sirens are set off, users are alerted through a series of 20-second vibrations, flashing lights and text messages. 

All this, within 12 seconds of the alarm being activated. 

The app can store up to 15 different sounds. 

Users can also customise the app by making their own recordings. 

Executive Director of the Singapore Association for the Deaf Judy Lim calls it a breakthrough for the deaf community. 

"For example, they may be walking along the road. When a car honks at them, they might not be able to hear. Now when they're on the road and a car honks, they can 'hear' it because their handphone will vibrate and if they're holding it, they can see the flashing of the light. So it's for their own safety." 

A second new app - Say it with Signs - allows the deaf to communicate better. 

Ms Lim explains how it works. 

"With this app, I find that I can just pick up my handphone and speak through the phone, and everything will be converted into sign language for the deaf person on the other end. And for the deaf person, what they've got to do is to simply text back to me. Everything will be converted into audio and I can hear what the deaf person is trying to tell me." 

This app has a library of 500 common words and phrases in English, such as "hello" and "how are you". 

Its developers plan to expand this to 4,000 words and phrases by June. 

Ms Lily Goh hopes to try out these apps once they're launched on Friday. 

The founder of Extraordinary Horizons, a social enterprise for the deaf, thinks that Say it with Signs will be ideal for meetings with clients. 

Ms Goh, who's partially deaf, says it'll save time previously spent on writing messages. 

The 34-year-old also hopes to see more languages available on the app. 

This would allow her to communicate with her Chinese-speaking mother, who doesn't know sign language. 

Both apps were developed by the Singapore Association for the Deaf and integrated communications firm Grey Group Singapore. 

They're available free of charge for Android devices at the Google Play Store. 

By June, iPhone users will also be able to download them via Apple's App Store. 

-By Valerie Koh

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