Written 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.
By Alyssa Walker
January 31, 2019

To those students for whom standardized tests are easy, the MCAT offers a real challenge. Premed students who had no problem in college and crammed fo...

By Alyssa Walker
January 25, 2019

To meet the growing need for healthcare professionals, Minnesota's colleges and universities are making medical education more accessible to more stud...

By Alyssa Walker
January 16, 2019

Some medical schools are taking pages from the recruitment playbooks of Google and other high-tech companies and switching the focus from the "creativ...