Melissa Malzkuhn is a student of MFAVN, a leader in digital innovation at Gallaudet and a founder of Ink & Salt, LLC. The company’s latest app, The ASL App, is a powerful attempt to introduce American Sign Language to the masses. I spoke with Melissa about the app, the process and getting the word out.
What is your goal with the app?
The goal behind this was to create a very easy way to introduce people to ASL, to start off with conversations, such as what we find in real life situations. I get asked ALL the time about how to learn ASL, and where to learn ASL. It dawned on me that I have the best team available – my own siblings – we’re third generation Deaf, and we’re native signers, grew up signing. We’re also pretty tech savvy – I mean, I got into app development and I love designing, so we teamed up, and pulled in a programmer I’ve worked with on several projects. I also want to see this app grow, create collaborations with businesses who want to provide ASL for their employees, or industries, and most importantly find ways that encourage people to create connections. It can be as simple as “Thank You” or “How are you” in ASL, and it creates connections. America can add a few signs to our country’s general social graces…
What challenges did you run into? Anything surprising?
We ran into plenty of challenges. We went through 40 beta versions before we finally squashed all programming bugs and felt the app was ready for launch. One of the biggest challenges we faced was “project management and organization” – also to find an inner determination to push this along, as this is entirely done in our free time, in between our real life jobs and projects!
How does the app fit in with the work you do?
It fits in with everything I do. I’m into interactive storytelling, and I develop bilingual storybook apps for children at work, among many other things, so to have this app come out – it’s filling in a much needed gap. I want to work with many wonderful creatives out there, and if we can have a bit of ASL on hand, it’s going to advance our work, communication, connection and understanding.
What are you doing to get the app out in front of as many people as possible?
I’m counting on you, Ben. Ha, no seriously, I hope to push this through MFAVN network, through SVA…. I have my own network too, so we’ll announce this and hope to get some write-ups, get featured in places, and most importantly I want to see people download this and ENJOY learning a new language. Start conversations. Create connections. Develop communities. 🙂
Thanks for helping make this kind of connection possible, Melissa. We look forward to working with you for years to come to ensure this app, and your future projects, get the attention they deserve.