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.
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.
Tasked with the strategy, design and build, we wanted to find a way to better connect the hearing world with the signing one by increasing awareness and literacy of Auslan.
Auslan Anywhere was designed from the ground-up with its users. Every decision made was led by insights from engagement: from aesthetics to feature set 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.
“My ten year old son is hard of hearing and is non-verbal, I'm keen to learn his language and support people around him to access resources to communicate with him.” — Auslan Anywhere leaner
It was inspiring to see the development of Auslan Anywhere through a bilingual collaboration and co-design process. It is a surreal feeling of co-creating a product that will make an everlasting impact on society.
Community Engagement Manager Expression Australia
Auslan is not the same as English, although people often think they’re the same. Auslan is an Australian language with its own unique words, phrases and grammatical structure. There are often differences between how the language is spoken within the deaf community versus outside it and there are different dialects of Auslan spoken across the country.
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.
To increase the creators sense of esteem, we included features that show how engaging their content is.
To increase the sense of connection that creators have to learners, we designed features that make the learners more visible.
We developed Auslan Anywhere in a fully remote, bilingual, and collaborative design process with Expression Australia. It looks great on both mobile and desktop, and it has the potential to go international. Tech-wise we used exactly the right mix of modern technologies. It integrates very nicely with Vimeo, and the GraphQL API was easy to integrate into the bespoke front-end.
Senior Developer at Today
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.
“My daughter is Deaf and signs at primary school. I’m trying to learn Auslan to support her and also to communicate better with others in the Deaf community.” — Learner using Auslan Anywhere
What is unique about Today are their values and flexibility when working with you. They work through every challenge with you as a true partner. We were very happy with the result.
Product Manager, Tech4Good, Expression Australia
Auslan Anywhere connects Auslan learners to creators fluent in the language. It’s different from formal Auslan courses or paper and digital 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.