Technology-based resources for Deaf Education

Family Educational Services Foundation (FESF)


Type: Civil Society | Categories:

Provide a clear and concrete project summary, with as much details as relevant for the Selection Committee to fully understand the extent of the benefits that the nominated project has bring to the community it serves.Please note this summary will be publicly available and it will be use to promote your project during the Community Choice Award online voting period.

There is a high incidence of deafness in Pakistan; less than 5% of Pakistan’s estimated 1.25 million deaf children attend school and become literate. Literacy development has been further hindered due to the lack of resources available in sign language for literacy development. The lack of ability to develop language skills can result in alienation, underemployment, and a diminished quality of life for these children.

FESF has harnessed technological advances in Pakistan to fill the tremendous void of resources for the Deaf through the development of technology-based PSL educational resources in Pakistan Sign Language (PSL), English and Urdu. These resources, including a digital dictionary with 5,000 words/signs, are currently being used in 7 schools for the Deaf in Pakistan, providing education to 1300 Deaf children each year. Within the next two months, these resources will be made widely accessible to all deaf and special needs schools, children, their teachers and their families countrywide via the Internet, providing the opportunity for access to quality materials that has not previously been available.

Please provide background information that allows the Selection Committee to understand the context in which your organization operates. What are the main challenges? What is the problem the project was set up to address? Please indicate when the project started.

There is a high incidence of deafness in Pakistan, estimated in 2010 as comprising over 1.25 million profoundly deaf school-age children. (Estimated statistics provided at the National Taskforce Planning Meeting Feb. 2010, “Audio 2020 – Pakistan” - Islamabad, Pakistan (
Less than 5% of Pakistan’s 1.25 million deaf children attend school and become literate, and the percentage is much lower for deaf girls. Those who attend specialized schools generally face a delay in literacy development due to their parents’ and teachers’ inability to communicate using sign language. The literacy levels of the majority of deaf students who complete elementary or even secondary school therefore tend to be very low.
Literacy is further hindered due to the lack of sign language reference materials. Scant resource material exists in dictionary form to assist students in strengthening the language skills necessary for academic achievement. Since the creation of an 800 hundred word/sign dictionary 20 years ago in Islamabad, no new PSL reference materials had been created or made available to the public until FESF’s recent creation of digital PSL Resources.

There is a positive link between proficiency in a signed language and general language literacy for deaf children. A number of studies have examined the relationship between American Sign Language (ASL) and English literacy and found that deaf children who attained higher levels of ASL ability significantly outperformed children in the lowest ASL ability level in English literacy, regardless of age and IQ.
The lack of literacy and communication skills often has lifelong and devastating consequences in the personal development of deaf individuals and their ability to develop marketable skills and thereby become economically independent and contributors to the community and their households. Many are socially marginalized, bereft of sufficient social skills, or members of low income families lacking in the resources to improve their quality of life. The acquisition of literacy and communication skills is absolutely essential to their personal development and social and economic well-being.

A growing body of research indicates that information and communication technologies promise new hope in raising literacy levels for the Deaf (M. Glaser and W. D. Tucker, Telecommunications Bridging Between Deaf and Hearing Users in South Africa, 2004).

Pakistan has experienced explosive growth in the information and communication technology industry in recent years. Prices for bandwidth and mobile services are among the lowest in the world, making them accessible to even the poorest segments of the population.

Technology-based PSL educational resources will be made available free of charge via the internet, interactive DVDs, and mobile phones within two months of the writing of this proposal. These resources will be accessible to all deaf and special needs schools, children, their teachers and their families countrywide, providing the opportunity for access to quality materials that has not previously been available.

What are the main reasons why your organization was motivated to initiate the project? Did the project respond to specific needs of a community?

Who was in charge of the project implementation? What other organizations/groups participated? Please provide information about the organizational arrangements that allowed the project to be implemented.

What are the main project objective(s) and what was the strategy used to achieve them?

This project successfully documented Pakistan Sign Language through digital technology, providing an educational resource that will empower teachers of the Deaf and students to learn sign language and develop communication skills. In order to do so, hundreds of signs were created for words that previously had no signs. These were all documented via a digital and visual PSL dictionary, a print PSL dictionary, providing translations into English and Urdu, to further expand the usefulness of these resources in language-learning.

Considering that the focus of this project is to provide the needed vocabulary building blocks for primary school children, primary efforts were directed toward the creation of signs pertaining to academic subjects and skills. This area also has the largest gap in terms of existing signs. Much of this is due to the fact that the majority of deaf children do not attend school. Thus, most sign language is used by deaf adults, and the existing sign language vocabulary is more limited to functions and activities outside of school topics. The PSL Digital Library, currently containing 5,000 words will be a comprehensive and continually expanded reference work documenting PSL, and serving as a basis for the PSL Visual Dictionary.

The PSL Portal, in its last stages of development, will make these resources widely available beyond schools for the Deaf or disabled, to all Deaf children, including the many who do not attend school, due to the lack of specialized educational facilities for the Deaf.

Please provide more details about the technical aspects of your project implementation. Describe what technologies were used, how they were integrated, what is innovative about it, etc.? Without detailed technical information the nomination will be automatically rejected.

• A PSL Digital Library and Visual Dictionary of 5,000 words/signs in 3 languages (PSL, Urdu, English)
• An interactive PSL DVD with signs for 5,000 words.
• A PSL web portal – with search access to 5,000 words/signs (in PSL, Urdu and English)
• A PSL web based mobile phone application with 1,500 words/signs (in PSL, Urdu and English)

What were the most relevant activities conducted during the course of the project? Indicate if those activities have been completed or are on-going.

Developed high quality standardized technology-based Pakistan Sign Language (PSL) learning resources for the education of deaf children including:
• A PSL Digital Library and Visual Dictionary of 5,000 words/signs in 3 languages (PSL, Urdu, English)
• An interactive PSL DVD with signs for 5,000 words.
• Sign language books and/or printed matter such as flash cards (in PSL, Urdu and English)
• A PSL web portal – with search access to 5,000 words/signs (in PSL, Urdu and English)
• A PSL web based mobile phone application with 1,500 words/signs (in PSL, Urdu and English)

Each word/sign in the PSL Visual Dictionary contains the following:
1) A live actor signing the word (which will be performed by a student or teacher of one of FESF’s Deaf Reach School);
2) A color photograph or graphic/animation of the word;
3) The word written in Urdu;
4) The word written English;
5) an Urdu voice-over of the word;
6) An English voice-over of the word.

Provide a list of the most relevant outcomes achieved as part of the project activities.

A PSL Digital Library and Visual Lexicon of 5,000 words/signs in 3 languages (PSL, Urdu, English)available on:

• An interactive PSL DVD with 5,000 words in 3 languages, and interactive PSL games
• A PSL web based mobile phone application with 5,000 words/signs in 3 languages (Android version)
• A book of 1,000 PSL signs,translated into the six main languages of Pakistan (English, Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pashto and Balochi)
• A PSL web portal(soon to be launched) – with 5,000 words in 3 languages, search access, downloadable files of all the materials and order forms for the materials.

Via the PSL Visual Library and Dictionary, outcomes in the 8 schools piloting the use of these resources have been:

• Improved access to literacy, particularly of deaf students, in grades 1 – 9
• Improved parents’ and teachers’ ability to communicate with the Deaf
• Increased access to literary resources for the Deaf

Describe what dissemination efforts were completed during the last year to promote your project. Include lists of publications, marketing materials, etc.

Outreach and awareness campaigns are a crucial aspect of this project, and one that will be undertaken on a regular basis for the next three years. Ensuring that the Deaf, their families, institutions for the handicapped, and other interested individuals are aware of the resources and have access to them is vital to this program resulting in the outcome we are striving for: that all deaf children will have the opportunity to acquire literacy and communication skills and thereby an opportunity to improve their quality of life.

Awareness of this project and the resources available are being advertised through (though not limited to) the following avenues:
• Flyers and word of mouth in the Deaf community countrywide
• Advertising on social media networks such as Facebook etc.
• Advertising on FESF web site
• The endorsement and promotion of the resources by the Minister of Special Education.
The Minister for Special Education, Sindh, Pakistan, Mr. Imtiaz Ahmad Shaikh is assisting FESF in networking with all schools for the Deaf and for Special needs children in Sindh province to enable the supplying of these resources to them. He will also endorse the PSL materials and introduce them and FESF to the ministers for Special Education in the other provinces.

Please let us know if your organization or your project team has received any awards or distinctions, specially those related to the nominated project

FESF has been granted the Special Consultative Status to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. No awards but much recognition in the media. Please see below for a few examples. More can be found here:

✕  The nominated project has been operational for at least one year. The community has already received the benefits of the activities.

Website from your organization

Explain why this project deserves the prize

Family Educational Services Foundation (FESF) is a non-profit, educational organization committed to enhancing the quality of life, education, and employment opportunities of the disadvantaged of Pakistan, with particular focus on deaf children and youth. To this end, FESF’s Deaf Reach program was established in 1998, to provide academic and vocational education to deaf children and youth (with focus on educational access for deaf female students), particularly in rural areas with little access to formal education or vocational training for the Deaf.

FESF’s staff has devoted the past 25 years to improving the quality of life of deaf children and youth in South and East Asia. Through their programs, schools, and resources developed to educate deaf children and youth and train teachers, thousands of children have had the opportunity to become literate, be educated, learn sign language, and master marketable skills. Through FESF’s 7 Deaf Reach Schools and Training Centres, 1,300 disadvantaged deaf children in rural areas of Pakistan have access to free education and vocational programs where none existed before. The schools boast modern technology, curricula, amenities and a 40% enrolment rate for girls.

With this wealth of experience in deaf education under their belt, and seeing the tremendous paucity of resources for Deaf education and the resultant disadvantages faced by deaf children, FESF undertook the daunting task of developing high quality standardized technology-based Pakistan Sign Language (PSL) learning resources that can be widely used throughout Pakistan. These materials are filling a tremendous need in providing access to deaf school-age children to literacy programs and resources that empower them to become literate and communicate in PSL, as well as Urdu and English. These materials also have the potential to increase female literacy rates amongst the deaf and provide access to resources to girl students unable to attend school, due to their accessibility via the Internet, making it possible for them to learn from home.

Facebook profile or Facebook page from the organization or project leader

Twitter profile from the organization or project leader


Google+ profile from the organization or project leader


Provide at least one link to other websites, newspapers, blogs, etc. providing evidence about the work conducted by your self, your project and/or your organization.

Provide at least one file with supporting documentation about your organization’s capacity to manage grants, references to support the need for such solution to be developed, reference letters from partners, etc.


Project Representative

Richard Geary Horwitz

Project Representative on Linkedin :


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