Located in the outskirts of Pretoria and founded in 1954, Transoranje School for the Deaf is a school to 200 deaf and hard of hearing children from Pre- Primary to High School. A government subsidised school, it is also a home and safe haven where the children are cared for, loved and recognised. The school’s over arching philosophy is to empower their students by developing them into well adjusted, responsible, independent, productive and self-sustaining individuals who are well prepared for the working world. Due to the lack of language exposure during their critical developmental stages, the students’ level of competency at Transoranje is on average 2-3 years behind their peers. Many of them start school with little or no ability to communicate effectively.
As a result, their situations pose a range of unique learning challenges. The school’s primary objective is to use a variety of visual means to teach their deaf students South African Sign Language (SASL) as well as reading and writing in English and Afrikaans. With the limited access to learning resources that the school previously had, this presented them with a difficult task. The iDeaf Project on the iPad originated out of a necessity to better equip the deaf students of South Africa with the critical reading and language skills needed to accelerate their learning to more acceptable levels. With their learning centred around visual methods, the developers set out to combine a variety of visual and language elements into a series of locally relevant and interactive story books in both English and Afrikaans that would teach deaf students to read using South African Sign Language. The books were not only engaging but also enabled a level of in-depth understanding that had never been achieved at the school previously and transformed how the school teaches students to read and communicate effectively.