New On The Block: Elf Centre and Knoctify

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

At Irisada, we love discovering new initiatives in Singapore. Today we want to share promising new organisations dedicated to responding to needs in the deaf and hard of hearing world. The first is the Elf Care Centre, an after-school daycare programme catering to deaf and hard of hearing children. They are brand new and unique in Singapore. On a different subject, Embodied Sensing is a tech start-up that has developed products specially adapted to deaf and hard of hearing adults.

We spoke to Christina Lim, founder of the Elf Centre and Kian Peen, co-founder of Embodied Sensing, to find out more about their goals and approach.

The Elf Centre: Giving Deaf and Hard of Hearing Kids the same Support 

Christina’s daughter was born deaf and finding the best way to help her learn was an uphill struggle. “Deaf kids usually have the same cognitive ability to learn,” says Christina. But they often accumulate delays, due to difficulties interacting during their early learning years.

And says Christina, “there are no structures that give them the specific support they need.” Christina had noticed that even in the best of cases, deaf and hard of hearing children would be mixed with other special needs kids. This didn’t seem like the best environment considering their challenges were essentially around communication.

A fun outing to Kidzania with kids at Elf. Everything was explained to them in sign language.

What’s more, Christina had noticed two other needs regarding homework-related activities. First, these kids often have a backlog of delays to struggle with if they are to catch up with their peers. So they need a safe place where they can put in the extra work. But very few places are capable of accompanying oral kids and none cater to those who sign.

This brings us to the second point. Not all parents of deaf kids can sign well enough to help them with their homework. Considering most deaf and hard of hearing kids are born into hearing families, some of them don’t have fluent signers at home to interact with. And that’s a huge difference compared to their hearing peers, who can easily access adults who use the same (oral) language.

Helping them Learn How to Learn

This is what Elf is all about. Opening up a centre that can help all these kids “build a firm pre-primary and primary school foundation to prepare them for the academic and social requirements of adulthood in Singapore”. The after-school is modelled on the bilingual Mayflower School, where two teachers simultaneously work with kids in sign and oral languages.

At Elf, children can get both oral and sign language support to learn in the best possible way and at their own pace. Christina says “we stress that each child learns differently, so academic performance is not our top priority.

After a kite-flying outing in April. The adult on the right is the sign language teacher at Elf.

So what is their top priority? “We aim to build the confidence level of each individual child so that they are able to grow up independent learners as they progress,” says Christina.

At the moment, the centre can accommodate 8-10 students. Elf is looking to expand, with a Kindergarten/ Pre-school program in the morning and Family Sign Classes (July 2018). If you or someone you know is interested in finding out more, you can contact them here: 8202 7065.

Knoctify: Adaptive Technology for Deaf Households

Embodied Sensing is launching Knoctify, a new product, specially designed to help deaf and hard of hearing people know when important sounds require their attention. The idea is simple: replace common sounds (like a doorbell or someone knocking on the door), with light or vibrations. In fact, the name Knoctify comes from the merger between the words “knock” and “notify”.

So how does it work? The doorbell sensor includes a physical button and a sensor that recognizes door knocks. When this sensor is triggered, it wirelessly sends a signal to a Knoctify receiver which provides multiple feedback outputs in the form of light, sound and/or vibration to the user.

Kian Peen concludes: “when someone knocks on the door, a LED light on the receiver flashes brightly to help capture the attention of a person who may be deaf, heard of hearing, or even someone who is in a loud and noisy environment.” And should you want to be alerted at night, you can use the vibrating receiver under your pillow. Knoctify is completely wireless and runs on batteries, making it easy to deploy anywhere in the house.

Knoctify: Beta Testing and Production

Kian Peen has been working on this project since 2016. He has beta tested it within the deaf and hard of hearing community in Singapore and adapted many elements according to their feedback. For example, users can customise output for each type of situation and the device is palm-sized, making it small enough for travelling.

The purple light flashes when someone knocks on the door (photo credit: Isabelle Lim)

The next steps once this first sensor will be on the market is to develop additional sensors. “We are planning for other sensors to add to the Knoctify product family, like a sound sensor which can be placed near a fire/smoke alarm, an alarm clock sensor, a telephone sensor etc.” So it seems Knoctify is just the beginning of the adventure.

Manufacturing has started and the first shipments arrive in July. Preorders start in June, so keep your eyes peeled. You can sign up to be informed when sales start on their official website.

 

We hope this article was useful to our Singapore based readers. Let us know if you think we should feature other initiatives and products relevant to specific communities.

 

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Mélie Aboul-Nasr

Mélie is an English and French language writer who has worked in consulting and social entrepreneurship. She helps Irisada develop relevant content for carers and customers.

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