Using Sign Language to Connect the World

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 360 million Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in the world. However, only 2% of them are educated in sign language. The main reason for this is the complexity of sign languages as well as each country using their own sign language, making international communication difficult.

Until March 2016, sign language was banned in Indonesia and deaf people were forced to read lips and speak. Our colleague, Rizky Ario, witnessed first-hand his aunt going through this horrifying experience, which led him to start Isara as project of his software house company. Along with a few other activists, he recorded over 10,000 sign language videos in 9 different cities in Indonesia and compiled the first Indonesian Sign Language dictionary. After meeting with the Minister of Education and even the President of Indonesia, he convinced them of the importance of using sign language.

The right to use sign language is now a part of the Indonesian Constitution.

Isara offers a comprehensive Deaf community-centred platform including an open sign language learning application and an online sign interpreter service as well as a new mobile app with two features: Isara Learning and Isara Interpreter. Isara Learning, a wonderful source, consists of an online dictionary and interactive sign language courses, where people can learn how to sign from scratch. The Isara Interpreter, on the other hand, is an on-demand interpreter service. Through the App, one could be connected to an available interpreter via video call, making it the ‘Uber for sign language interpreters’.

In order to scale up, Isara created a community-powered engine called Isara Incubator, where the Deaf community can contribute to the course by editing and maintaining the contents.

To increase awareness on the issue, and specifically the project, the Isara team started participating in different competitions and events, including University Startup World Cup and the GoodFestival. This gave the team to exposure to meet numerous political key figures, such as Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, and Susan LeVine, US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

After participating in the MassChallenge, Isara relocated to Paris in February 2017, where it is further developing the project under supervision by the French government through its French Tech Ticket program.

Isara. Empowering Deaf and Hard of Hearing people to take care of themselves and enjoy an unprecedented independence. Creating an opportunity to reintegrate into society. Enabling them to actively shape the spreading of the sign language.


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Written by Nora Hoffmann

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Nora Hoffmann
Social Media & GoodPowWow Editor, Majamba Sàrl, Switzerland

Besides working as Social Media & GoodPowWow Editor for Majamba, Nora is studying International Hospitality Management at the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne. The inspiring community of innovators led her to join the team last autumn to be part of this year’s GoodFestival. Her volunteering experience at an orphanage in Namibia inspired her to work for the benefit of others and always strive for positivity. With her optimistic nature and determination, Nora likes to spread a can-do attitude in her environment and encourage others to accomplish their aspirations.

Being a curious and open-minded person, Nora loves traveling and getting to know the “local way of living”. Speaking (or better still learning) five languages, she likes interacting with people from around the world and learning about their stories. On her trips, she is also looking for culinary adventures as she enjoys variety in any context. To calm her down after a busy week, she is always up for baking a sweet treat, heading out to nature or enjoying a drink with her friends.

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