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Israel’s eMotion Offers Storybooks with Sign Language for Deaf Children

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Created by Eyal Rosenthal, eMotion Stories are digital books in English and American Sign Language. They mark the world’s first interactive bilingual e-library for parents of children with hearing impairment.

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Rosenthal, an American who moved to Israel in 2008, does not expect to get rich off of this project, only have the satisfaction of bringing a new dimension into the lives of children who otherwise would miss out on reading classics with their parents such as Goldilocks, Cinderella, The Ugly Duckling, Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs.

Each of the interactive fairy tales features pictures by world-class Israeli illustrators and is narrated in American Sign Language, in synch with the text, by deaf actress Alexandria Wailes.

Soft-launched last May, eMotion Stories offers a free download of its iPad app along with the first book; additional e-books can be purchased for $3.99 apiece.

“There have been 2, 000 to 3, 000 free downloads and several hundred downloads of paid books, ” Rosenthal said. “Our total revenues are less than $1, 000, but this wasn’t done for the money.”

Rosenthal – a Tel Aviv resident who works in business development and product management at Leumi Tech –hooked up with the developers at Tel Aviv’s Go UFO web and mobile creative application agency. “Without them it could not have occurred, ” he says.

Go UFO creative partner Eddie Goldenberg said that his team “had a lot of experience in pro bono work, and it’s close to our heart to do things more social and environmental.”

Rosenthal’s concept struck a chord with him. “So-called ‘normal’ children can hear bedtime stories about princesses and dragons, but a hearing-impaired child misses out on that, ” Goldenberg says.

“I found it so inspiring that Eyal wanted to enrich the vocabulary and allow for a story-time experience. So we started thinking together how to do it. We wanted to combine an interactive story, like those on tablets that are so popular, with the option to let the child or parent also read it using sign language.”

They thought immediately about TV news shows that feature a circle at the bottom of the screen where a presenter simultaneously translates into sign language. “We were certain someone else may have done it, but we saw nothing close, so we decided to do it.”

Because every country has its own sign language, the creators of eMotion are offering their “white-label” platform to other developers at no charge.

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