There is nothing quite like speaking in your mother tongue. While other styles of communication may be accessible to the hearing impaired, for the several hundred thousand deaf users who use the Israeli phone application called Glide, the ability to be able to leave video messages in sign language, for many of them their mother tongue, was a true blessing.    

Glide app spokesperson Sarah Snow talked with Arutz Sheva about how the company is reaching out and championing the cause of the deaf community around the globe.

“Sign language is often the native language for those deaf people who use it. Using English to type a text message forces them to use a second language with which they are frequently less proficient. Since Glide is a platform for visual communication, it lets our deaf users speak to their friends and family in their first language. Plus, video of a signed conversation is simply a whole lot faster than texting.”

In our interactions with the deaf community, we’ve been told a number of other reasons why Glide has become instrumental in enabling them to easily communicate with their friends, family, and loved ones when apart: These include Glide’s one-touch recording, which allows for easy one- or-two-handed conversations in sign language; the elimination of interruptions that force the recipient to wait for the speaker to finish signing before responding; and a lessening of data usage, as Glide only transfers half of the data of each call.

Snow said that the feedback from the deaf community has been very positive throughout.

The innovation of Glide is in the timing explained Snow. “Before Glide, two deaf users - or any two people who wanted to communicate using video - would need to schedule a video call to speak with one another using a videophone or video calling apps. Glide allows for flexibility to send asynchronous video messages in the moment – without needing to schedule an appointment to talk.”

In today’s fast paced and busy society, Glide can offer a lot of advantages. “Now, a message sender no longer has to worry what the recipient is doing or whether they’re even available. The recipient can simply respond whenever is most convenient for them.”

Due to the app's recent success with the audience in the deaf community, the organization has “deeply engaged” the community according to Snow. “We have created videos in American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with this audience and visited numerous University groups and schools for the Deaf around the United States.”

Taking the next step to embracing the deaf community, Glide which relies in part on their social media and Youtube marketing to reach younger audiences, has begun close captioning all of their youtube videos as part of the worldwide campaign '#WithCaptions' to encourage others to close caption their videos so that members of the deaf community will be able to enjoy YouTube as much as non-hearing-impaired viewers.

“We to encourage youTubers to close caption their videos and make them accessible to the more than 30 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans. This is a really important effort, since only 25% of YouTube videos currently have captions – meaning that people who do not hear cannot understand 75% of the billions of videos shared on YouTube,” snow explained.

But Glide isn’t satisfied with simply making changes among their own users and clientele; they are aiming to change the way that other businesses and content creators approach the deaf community.

“We proposed a South by Southwest (SXSW) panel with the goal of show other brand marketers, content creators and community managers how they can make their content more accessible to the deaf community. Our proposal was shared on social networks by over 10,000 people from all around the world. Plus,the video announcing our submission received over 150K views on Facebook.” The proposal was accepted by the conference organizers and Snow will be speaking alongside deaf filmmaker Jules Dameron at SXSW in Austin, TX this coming March.

The work of Glide has been recognized by the US national advocacy group for the deaf and hard of hearing, TDI which stands for Telecommunications for the Deaf and hard of Hearing, Inc. Claude Stout, executive director of TDI, told in a recent interview that; "we [the deaf community] show the nuances of communication, and we use our expressions to show our feelings, and show that we are happy or sad or concerned or upset, just like you can hear those nuances in a person's voice. Switching to a keyboard means switching to a second language. We are very happy that we have discovered Glide.”

Glide received the Andrew Saks Engineering Award from TDI for our efforts to improve accessibility to telecommunications and media in the United States through efforts in design, electronics or engineering. This puts Glide in a select and very distinguished group of recipients. The previous two recipients of this award were Microsoft in 2013 and Google in 2011.

Glide Spokesperson Sarah Snow at the Texas Scool for the Deaf
Glide Spokesperson Sarah Snow at the Texas Scool for the DeafCourtesy: Glide

Glide hopes to set an example for other high tech companies in Israel and abroad to make their services more accessible to members of this community and other communities as well, while making human communication more accessible. The company’s mission is to ‘transcend the boundaries of human communication through the power and personality of live video messaging.’ Snow said that the companies vision that by “offering a visual medium for messaging, Glide is lowering barriers for anyone who may otherwise have trouble communicating with others.”

Other populations that may have an easier time communicating via Glide include, the elderly who find texting challenging, and parents of small children who can help their children send messages even before they can read or write, spouses or loved ones who are away from each other, and military personnel who wish to communicate with loved ones back home.  As noted earlier, we believe that it’s important for all people to have access to technology and we’re regularly spreading that message both here in Israel and abroad.

Snow signed off with a message of tolerance and respect for the non-hearing-impaired community. “Some of the people I’ve met on this journey are amazing. I’ve learned to treat deaf people as equals, and not like people who need special help. I encourage everyone should do so. They simply want to enjoy the same things as everyone else and they deserve the access they need to do so. They just use a different language to communicate with their friends and families.

About Glide:

Glide is a free video messaging app for iOS and Android phones and is available for download. It provides a high speed interpersonal communication experience that combines the flexibility of texting with the richness of video. It was released in 2013, and is the brainchild of Ari Roisman, Jonathan Caras and Adam Korbl three young entrepreneur olim who wanted a better way to keep in touch with loved ones. Glide has experienced strong word-of-mouth user adoption and been installed on over 20 million devices.