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Site Helps Deaf With Signing Science Terms

SEATTLE, (UPI) –  U.S. researchers say an online forum is helping develop sign language versions of specialized terms used in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Started at the University of Washington, the forum lets members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community build their own guide to the evolving lexicon of science, a university release reported.

A scientific and technical dictionary for American Sign Language called Science Signs Lexicon has existed since the late 1990s, researchers said, but a dictionary can’t include the newest terms and many signing graduate students won’t find the specialized terms used in their chosen fields.

With funding from Google Corp. and the National Science Foundation, the Washington researchers launched the ASL-STEM Forum, an online compilation of signs used in science, technology, engineering and math they said is more like Wikipedia or the Urban Dictionary.

“The goal was to have one place where all these signs could be,” Richard Ladner, a UW professor of computer science and engineering, said. “We’re not trying to decide on new signs but just collect the ones that are in current use.”

The site lists 6,755 terms from biology, chemistry, engineering, math and computer science textbooks, with video entries for about 2,800.

“I hope ASL-STEM Forum helps more deaf students become scientists and engineers,” Ladner said. “And as more deaf students enter these fields they will hopefully contribute to the forum, making it sustainable and useful over time.”

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