Zoë Hector said working as a teacher aide for deaf children gave her a “fly on the wall” insight into their social lives.
Now the Christchurch audiologist has designed and built a resource game, Talk Town, to help young deaf people to reduce feeling of social isolation.
“Not even parents and teachers get to see those day to day interactions between children on the playground,” Ms Hector said.
“Most deaf children now go to their local mainstream school, which is excellent . . . but they don’t learn the same social skills, like asking another child if they can join in, it’s those subtle interactions that get missed.”
Talk Town is a game that aims to “level the playing field” between deaf children and their able hearing counterparts, Ms Hector said.
Players create a character that wears the same hearing devices and communicates just as they would.
They then follow the game through everyday situations like ordering lunch or clarifying instructions, allowing them to practice communicating and engaging with others.
“I saw a big problem and found there’s no resource available to help,” Ms Hector said.
Pupils from van Asch Deaf Education Centre have been trialling the game, which is in the prototype stage.
“One girl signed to me ‘this will give me more confidence to talk to hearing people when I go to McDonald’s on a Friday’.”
Ms Hector said she has been told it is “desperately needed” and the game will change the lives of deaf children.
So when the game is ready to hit the market, Ms Hector wants to make it as accessible to as many deaf students.
“There will be a small online charge, but I want it to be as little as possible so it reaches as many people as possible,” she said.
At this stage it would be $5 or less.
•To find out more: www.pledgeme.co.nz/projects/5688-talk-town-a-revolutionary-digital-game-for-young-deaf-people