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Our position on the use of signing avatars

We acknowledge the concerns raised by D/deaf and sign-language interpreters community, including those specifically raised by World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI), The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Association of Sign Language Interpreters of India (ASLI). They caution the difference in linguistic quality between humans and avatars leads to the position that signing avatars should not be used as a replacement for human signers.

However, we believe that the rise of technology is causing the wider signing community to reconsider how technology is applied in their daily lives. It also provides a real chance of better accessibility, especially in those situations when a human interpretation can’t be made available.

In principle, we agree with the WFD and WASLI’s position statement that:

“Computer-generated 3D avatars have the potential to provide alternative opportunities to render publicly available information that is in written text or spoken into a signed language”

While the technology has progressed and offers real potential for wider use of signing avatars, we do not intend to use avatars to replace any signed interpretation by qualified sign language interpreters. In fact, we believe that the avatars can be used to support and enhance access for deaf people.

We understand that the deaf community, both at various international and national forums, have expressed particular concern where avatars are used when the information being delivered is live such as public emergency announcements. We have seen many delays in providing access to the deaf community during these situations. We believe this is an excellent example of where an avatar would come into use until a sign language interpreter is ready.

We respect and acknowledge that sign-language is an important and indivisible part of D/deaf culture. We, therefore, have made special effort to consult users and certified professionals of sign-language and have built our sign-bank by referring to official dictionary released by the Indian Sign Language Research & Training Centre (ISLRTC).

We look forward to working with the D/deaf, sign-language interpreter community, and others providing better accessibility for everyone and the promotion of sign language in India and globally.