Hearing is part and parcel of life as it helps us receive information as well as communicate effectively. However, being able to hear perfectly well is something we often take for granted, after all, many of us have never had to live with a hearing impairment or any kind of disability.
The people born with a hearing impairment generally have it rough as they are not able to communicate with others. This has had an effect of ensuring that these individuals, however talented they may be, are not able to realize their dreams.
According to a survey by VSO Kenya, deaf students tend to perform significantly worse than their counterparts with good hearing. Additionally, the number of deaf graduates is significantly low.
It was the dire situation that prompted the founders of Veezaviz to launch a platform that would help them communicate with the rest of the world. Veezaviz is the brainchild of two tech enthusiasts, Lumona Mulengwa and Elly Savatia, whose aim is to break the communication barrier between people with hearing impairment and the rest of the world using technology.
The two founders met while going through a Global Minimum program which works to create a generation of African innovators, leaders and changemakers that implement solutions to challenges affecting their communities.
While in the program, Elly who hails from Migori met with some students who had a hearing impairment. Being that he was very enthusiastic about the program, he tried sharing with them some information about it but found it to be challenging. This gave him an idea of working on a project that could help him to better communicate with them. He shared the idea with Lumona who coincidentally had thought of something similar, and they decided to collaborate and this is what birthed Veezaviz.
Through this innovation, people with hearing impairments are able to access information as well as communicate with the rest of the world. The app uses AI technology to translate sign language to text and vice versa.
They have since created a community which consists of sign language interpreters and over 100 deaf people. Using the platform, they have been teaching them things like mobile phone repair, design thinking and innovation because in a bid to give them skills that can help them better their lives.
One of the beneficiaries of this innovation shares she struggled with getting the right information even from television broadcasters. Veezaviz has become her trusted assistant when she needs information to get school assignments done.
Veezaviz has since won awards such as Villgro health innovations and was one of the startups selected in the UNICEF Generation Unlimited (GenU) programme in 2022 which seeks to create better young people’s education, skills, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. The recognition earned an impressive Ksh 1.5 million, office space and mentorship.
However, they have had their fair share of challenges along the way including getting access to data. This is because sign language data is not accessible to the public which meant incurring additional costs to access it. They were able to overcome this curveball thanks to the help of organizations and the community.
Veezaviz has not only transformed the lives of hearing-impaired people across the country but also embodies the spirit of selflessness that its founders, Elly and Lumona, have shown.