A UVU professor of American Sign Language has been rewarded a grant to create a Deaf World Library and Museum, an online resource that will make documents on the deaf community available in a single location for the first time.
Universities across the country have deaf libraries, but not all deaf resources have been digitized. Many libraries have online listings for deaf resources, but the resource is only held in a hard copy.
“There’s some pretty good collections around. The problem is trying to get them all in one place,” said Bryan Eldredge, UVU professor and director of American Sign Language and deaf studies.
Eldredge is using his $50,000 grant to digitize deaf libraries across the country. He is currently creating an implementation plan with partners from several universities.
“It’s really frustrating for students in the deaf studies program when they need to do research and there is so much in the way of historical documentation that they can’t find, let alone access,” Eldredge said in a prepared statement on Oct. 8.
Many members of the deaf community in the United States are bilingual. They sign in ASL and write in English. Historically deaf resources are written documents. With the rise of video, more resources are being recorded. Eldredge said he would like to use movement recognition to search ASL records.
Movement recognition technology is based on facial and voice recognition technologies. Patterns in movements will be identified and matched to records containing the same pattern.
“There are a lot of challenges still in doing it. It’s going to be possible, I believe that,” Eldredge said. “Right now there isn’t any work being done on it because there’s no funding — there’s no application for it.”
The deaf library will be accessible to everyone. ASL teachers across the country will be able to improve their classes with the added resources. Eldredge said it will even improve education across other fields of study.
“There’s a lot of crossover in education,” Eldredge said. “It’s history in all sorts of perspectives.”
Julie Eldredge, ASL adjunct instructor at BYU who is deaf herself, said she is very excited about the library. She said it will help BYU’s program catch up with other programs by giving students access to ASL resources from outside the Utah community.
“One of my biggest frustrations as a teacher who often teaches about deaf culture and ASL literature is the fact that it is difficult to access a lot of resources that I know are out there but remain either ‘hidden’ or difficult to access,” Eldredge said in an email.