Jul 11, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Two University of Cape Town medical students developed an app to improve communication with the Deaf community. 

According to the University of Cape Town News, fourth-year medical students, Banele Mhlongo and Vuma Mthembu, developed the app based on the belief that more patients would use medical facilities if their basic communication needs were met.

Their app will use video content to show sign language interpreters and healthcare professionals explaining everything patients need to know. For example, if a deaf patient needed to know about asthma, the short videos would explain asthma triggers, treatments, medications to take, and medications to avoid.

Mhlongo said, "The Deaf community has no alternative language other than Sign [and] lip-reading is insufficient. And when examining, about 70% of a diagnosis comes from a patient's history. To get a good history, you need to ask relevant questions that the patient can understand and respond to."

The students are using Instagram to capture a younger Deaf audience and using meme-style captioned images that explain the most common health conditions. 

Mthembu and Mhlongo are also championing better communication for deaf patients throughout the medical community.  Their aim is to pioneer sign-language teaching for all programmes in the medical school and to get other institutions to adopt it.

Their hope? To bring the app - and sign-language communication - to all medical practitioners in South Africa. “We should be caring better for this population, engaging with them and providing better, more equitable, holistic, acceptable and appropriate access to healthcare and information,” Mhlongo concluded.

Learn more about studying in South Africa. 


Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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