Medical Signbank Project

A perceived lack of Auslan vocabulary in the areas of health and medicine causing difficulties for deaf people and their interpreters in health care situations prompted the "Medical Signbank Project".

The aim of that project was to conduct linguistic research with Auslan users to improve information about Auslan signs and make this information accessible here in the Auslan Signbank site. Signbank allows the deaf community and Auslan interpreters to provide feedback on the signs they use.

The research program involved

  • observing language use by deaf people and their interpreters in medical settings
  • analysing information from focus groups discussing health related vocabulary
  • conducting on-line surveys of deaf people, interpreters, and medical and health-care workers
  • identifying existing health and medical signs in Auslan through the Medical Signbank sub-site
  • identifying English health and medical terms that had no sign and creating a video explanation in Auslan in the Auslan Signbank site (deaf people and interpreters can search for these explanations just as if they were signs — one simply types in the English word and examines the matching entries in Signbank)
  • collecting new sign vocabulary in health and medicine from deaf people and Auslan interpreters and displaying them in Signbank
  • encouraging feedback on new and existing signs from Auslan users accessing Signbank
  • reflecting community feedback in the way signs are displayed on Signbank

The outcome of the project

Interpreter and deaf community feedback was used to adjust the entries in Auslan Signbank and the Medical Signbank sub-site has now been seamlessly re-intergrated back into Auslan Signbank. New signs have been added and concepts for which no sign was in common use have been given an explanation into Auslan on the site. 

Importantly, all signs that are significantly related to medicine, health and well-being have been tagged as "health-related signs" in the updated Auslan Signbank. When you click on the "Sign Search" button you will see that on the resulting search page you can now restrict your sign search to health-related signs only. (Only those English words ranked as important by interpreters and feedback by deaf people have been included.)

Project summary            Funding and partners            Researchers