There are over 260,000 people with hearing impairments in Kenya most of whom are not easily reached by corporate firms and professionals. The COVID 19 pandemic even made it worse for the deaf in isolation attended to by nurses and doctors who did not understand sign language. The wearing of personal protective equipment which included masks and gloves made sign language communication impossible because of the lack facial expressions due to the masks.
assistALL , an innovation by Signs Media Kenya Limited has officially launched to provide sign language interpretation services in Kenya and bridge the communication gap between deaf persons and healthcare providers in Kenya. Initially planned to help during the Covid-19 pandemic, the app is now open to users in the higher education sector, healthcare, judicial system, government services and finance among others.
“assistALL app will revolutionize how the deaf participate in the social economic development in Kenya and beyond,” said Chief Administrative Secretary Min of ICT Ms. Maureen Mbaka. “The application seeks to eliminate the logistics of travel by the interpreter and other expenses. A Sign language interpreter is also able to serve more deaf people, which bridges the gap between the demand and supply for quality sign language interpretation services.”
The app is expected to create 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. They are therefore able to serve more deaf people, an important step to promote inclusion of deaf persons by enabling them access essential services while corporates and professionals can use the app to easily access this consumer segment that has in the past not been considered during business planning.
assistALL operates on a per second billing platform, and with as little as Kes.30 one can access a sign language interpreter. The app can be downloaded through the Google Play store on android devices.
The assistALL journey began in 2020 where an idea from the signs media team became reality through the support of UNDP-K Disability innovation challenge. assistALL was among five innovations chosen and supported from ideation to become a minimum viable product. In 2021, Signs Media Kenya Limited was the only African owned and operated start up to be awarded a grant by the GSMA Innovation Fund for Assistive Tech, an initiative currently funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). The Fund aims to open up opportunities for innovative start-ups and SMEs across Africa and Asia to address the Mobile Disability Gap. This has enabled the development of the app from a minimum viable product (MVP) to a market ready product.
The GSMA Innovation Fund supports innovative digital solutions with positive socio-economic impact in low and middle income countries. GSMA believes digital solutions have the power to sustainably reduce inequalities within our world by connecting everyone and everything to a better future.
After the launch in Kenya, assistALL aims to expand geographically into other African countries and develop other assistive technology products to be become an assistive technology platform for all.