Clear and equal communication between people after an urgent event can be a matter of life-and-death — and it is in that spirit of critical caring about the Deaf Community that Janna and I created sosASL.com: A free public website for use by the Deaf and emergency first responders.
Here’s the beta test letter I sent out to select friends and colleagues to help us bang on and sort out sosASL.com and to explain the intent and mission of the emergency communication portal:
Janna and I and I recently took our ASL online classes live at — http://hardcoreasl.com/classes.html — and we are happy to announce today a new emergency communication portal and we’d love your help in testing the site.
The new website is called “SOS ASL” and it is located online at — http://sosASL.com — the purpose of the site is to help facilitate communication between the Deaf and first level emergency responders like the police, firefighters and EMT/medical staff.
Using a series of clickable images that should lead to a fast understanding of the problem, the Deaf — or an on-site police officer or hospital nurse, or responding firefighter — can quickly get an idea what’s wrong and start the initial steps to get help rolling.
sosASL.com is a free site and it will remain free as a public service.
We had to make some hard decisions between site speed, vocabulary and succinctness of thought in order to make the site usable. There’s a delicate balance between including every word so the idea gets lost in the emergency and also in not using enough words so the emergency cannot be expressed.
We made a choice that people having an emergency and using our site will at least need to be cogent enough to click a mouse — so this site is purposefully not geared to those crushed in a car accident or struck by a tornado — and we understand it may be a secondary person, or stranger, who is helping the Deaf person communicate the problem — so speed and familiarity with the site were important.
We did not use the alphabet. Many hardcore Deaf people use gestures and home signs instead of written English and spelling out a long name or sentence letter-by-letter is not feasible in an emergency situation. We did include numbers from 0-10 because they serve a dual duty conveying amounts and timeframes.
I am asking you to visit sosASL.com and bang around on it playing out and inventing different scenarios…. i.e. you are a Deaf person and your dog was hurt by smoke inhalation today at home… or you are a police officer and you find a Deaf woman in her apartment bleeding from her head and sosASL.com is open in a web browser on her computer and you use the site to communicate with her even though she doesn’t know when or why she was hurt… or you are a Deaf person visiting a hospital emergency room with a sharp pain in your kidney that started yesterday at work…
Then make up your own scenarios!
Please let me know how your scenarios play out and if anything is broken or unclear, and feel free to have your friends and associates hit the site too — we want to spread the word about the availability of the sosASL.com portal — especially to those in the medical, fire and police fields.
We also want to translate the site into as many languages as possible — lots of Deaf people use ASL even if their first language isn’t English — so please let us know if you, or someone you know, has the ability to translate the pages into another language for us. We’ll give translator credit on the site. Each translation will have its own directory. The page layout and images will remain the same across all translations.
Janna and I are officially declaring sosASL.com a live website today, and we ask you to visit the portal and get a feel for the place — and we hope you’ll let your friends and family and local emergency first responders know about our free service.
Feel free to link to sosASL.com as you wish!