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Sign Time: making the digital world barrier-free for the deaf

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Sign languages use visual signs to communicate, and they are as complex and nuanced as any spoken language. Headquartered in Vienna, Sign Time is on a mission to make the digital world barrier-free for the deaf. “Sign Time specializes in translating text to sign language”, explains Dr. Georg Tschare, CEO. “We did translations for various websites, as well as content for museums, translating their audio guides and smartphone apps. We also perform dubbing services through the traditional sign language box featured on the screen”.

Although demand for sign language translation is growing, translations into sign language are currently only possible with the help of videos pre-recorded with human actors in a studio. This is both expensive and time consuming, which is why a significant part of digitally available content remains inaccessible to deaf people. “As much as we tried to reduce costs, producing sign language remained very expensive”, says Georg. Searching for a solution, Sign Time became the leading partner in the SiMAX project, aiming to develop software for sign language translation through an animated avatar. This technology allows for quick and cost-effective translation. “It was very challenging for us at first, Georg explains, “but we had good ideas and won some awards, which encouraged us”.

In order to support these activities, the company required financial support. “We were developing something new and we needed to invest significantly into research and development, which meant liquidity problems”, Georg says. “Our funding didn’t cover all our needs, and we required more working capital to make the project viable”. To secure the necessary financing, Sign Time got an EU-guaranteed loan from Erste Bank, backed by EIF. “The financing was very important for us to continue operations. Without it we might not have been able to pay salaries or continue recruiting for our team”, Georg adds.

Sign Time currently focuses on the German market, but over the next two years they plan to expand their services to include the other five main sign languages in Europe. In addition to translating text, the company is also developing projects to implement its live time translation services in new contexts, such as public transportation, where announcements are often inaccessible to the deaf.

Company: Sign Time (new website) (Austria)

Type of business: sign language services

EIF financing: EaSI Guarantee Financial Instrument

Financial intermediary: Erste Bank

For further information about EIF intermediaries in Austria, please refer to: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/at/index.htm

 

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