Important note: This Wiki page is edited by participants of the RDWG. It does not necessarily represent consensus and it may have incorrect information or information that is not supported by other Working Group participants, WAI, or W3C. It may also have some very useful information.

Sign Language

From Research and Development Working Group Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Catalogue Entry – Sign Language on the Web DRAFT


Sign Language on the Web


Klaus Miesenberger

Categorization and Tags:

Accessibility, deafness, hearing impairment, sign language


Sign Language is the first language of many deaf and profoundly hard of hearing people. This topic proposes to discuss concepts, methods, guidelines, recommendations and tools how to best integrate sign language on the web for a) accessible information provision and b) accessible and better usable interaction and communication with web based systems or other people using web based communication tools.

Background and State-of-the-art:

A high percentage of deaf and profoundly hard of hearing people use Sign Language as their first and preferred language for accessing information and communication. Although they might have basic, advanced or excellent skills in using a spoken language and/or might find support in Easy to Read language use, they demand for use of sign language as everybody else asks for support of their mother tongue. Accessibility and anti-discrimination legislation respects this by e.g. granting sign language the rights of acknowledged minority languages. In general the equal rights and (e)Accessibility movement has led to R&D activities to further develop sign language use in terms of grammar and vocabulary, working on tools for telecommunication or web based sign language communication and interaction, animated sign language and sign language recognition.


People using sign language as their first language often experience difficulties while accessing written information of spoken languages. The reason for that is, that a relatively high percentage of this user group only has basic knowledge of spoken languages; basically two approaches are applied nowadays. Websites can either use Easy to Read to overcome possible shortcomings in terms of language skills of website visitors. Secondly especially for primary sign language users, the website can offer information in sign language, which is a much more direct approach and usually better addresses the needs of deaf and profoundly hard of hearing people. Providing sign language information material on websites comes with some difficulties, though. Firstly, it is often not obvious which sign language to use on a specific website, as there are many different ones. Sign languages follow their own path of development and are independent of spoken languages. For instance British Sign Language and American Sign Language are rather different [OTH14] even though English websites are often supposed to cover both countries amongst others. The same is true for German speaking countries [NGU14]. Technical issues need to be considered too. How should sign language videos or animation be presented? When and for which content types should Sign Language alternatives be provided? Challenging Research Questions in this area concern automated sign language recognition [JEB14, JAB14], supported or automated translation to or from sign language [ZBA14] and supported or automated sign language animation (using avatars) [BOU14, YAH14].

Research Goals:


  • Prioritized list of issues to be addressed
  • Indicative timeline (short/middle/long term)
  • Methodological considerations (e.g. studies, guidelines, standards, prototypes, experiments, implementation, dissemination, market penetration, education)

Issues to be addressed

Access to information, today to the web, and inclusion/participation for many deaf and hard of hearing people can be significantly improved if information is provided in sign language. Topics should be related but are not limited to

  1. guidelines and recommendations
    • When and for what content types Sign Language alternatives should be provided
    • How to best integrate Sign Language videos or animations on the web (e.g. pop-up window, reserve video space, mouse over)
    • Which Sign Language to use for different kinds of web pages e.g.
      • International, American or other national Sign Languages or further regional languages or dialects)
      • Primary or Auxiliary (accompanying spoken words) Sign Language
    • Specific domains for Sign Language integration, e.g. eLearning, eGovernment
  2. Techniques and tools to
    • Produce Sign Language videos or animations (e.g. authoring tools, dictionaries, collections, services for Sign Language production)
    • Present and integrate Sign Language videos or animations
  3. Integration of systems and services for communication and meetings in Sign Language
    • Web based Multimedia and Sign Language including communication services
    • Relay/remote Sign Language Translation/Animation services (posterior or live)
    • Video chat services
  4. Challenging R&D questions and their impact on Sign Language use on the web like
    • Sign Language Recognition
    • Supported or automated translation from/to Sign Language
    • Supported or automated Sign Language animation (use of avatars)


  • [BOU14]Y. Bouzid, and M. Jemni, A Virtual Signer to Interpret SignWriting, ICCHP 2014, Computer Helping People with Special Needs, 2014
  • [JAB14]K. Jaballah, and M. Jemni, Hand Location Classification from 3D Signing Virtual Avatars Using Neural Networks, ICCHP 2014, Computer Helping People with Special Needs, 2014
  • [JEB14]M. Jebali, P. Dalle, and M. Jemni, Effcient Tracking Method to Make a Real Time Sign Language Recognition System, ICCHP 2014, Computer Helping People with Special Needs, 2014
  • [NGU14]P. L. Nguyen, V. Falk, and S. Ebling, Building an Application for Learning the Finger Alphabet of Swiss German Sign Language through Use of the Kinect, ICCHP 2014, Computer Helping People with Special Needs, 2014
  • [OTH14]A. Othman, and M. Jemni, A Novel Approach for Translating English Statements to American Sign Language Gloss, ICCHP 2014, Computer Helping People with Special Needs, 2014
  • [YAH14]N. B. Yahia, and M. Jemni, Gestures in Sign Language: Animation and Generation in Real-time, ICCHP 2014, Computer Helping People with Special Needs, 2014
  • [ZBA14]M. Zbakh, Z. Haddad, and J. L. Krahe, Toward a Reversed Dictionary of French Sign Language (FSL) on the Web, ICCHP 2014, Computer Helping People with Special Needs, 2014
  • The Article Sign Language on the Web also covers this topic.