Social Haptic Signs for Deaf and Blind in Education



European Commission, Erasmus+ Programme (KA2 – Cooperation for Innovation and the Exchange of Good Practices / KA201 – Strategic Partnerships for school education)


Project number



Project leader

Thomas Lydell-Olsen, Europeiskt Teckenspråkscenter [European Sign Language Centre, ESLC], Sweden



  • Europeiskt Teckenspråkscenter [European Sign Language Centre, ESLC], Sweden (Coord.)
  • CIIE/FPCEUP, Universidade do Porto (Portugal)
  • Kuulmispuudega Laste Õpetajate Selts (The Estonian Association of Teachers of Hearing Impaired Children, KLÕPS), Estonia
  • UNIVE - Universita Ca' Foscari Venezia, Italy


Portuguese team

  • Orquídea Coelho (CIIE/FPCEUP) (Coord.)
  • Bruno Mendes (CIIE/FPCEUP) (research assistant)
  • Ana Magalhães (ILGP)
  • Ana Oliveira (ILGP)
  • César Casanova (ESES/FCUP)
  • Paulo Vaz de Carvalho (CED-JRP/UCP Lisboa)
  • Vânia Ferreira (ILGP)



36 months
Start date 1 September 2019
End date 31 August 2022





In this project we will reach out to all deafblind pupils in the schools and the people who are working with them. The background is, that to communicate with a person with deafblindness you need to know sign language. Sign language is not the same all over the world so each national sign language has to be used, and much communication goes through sign language interpreters. The problem we want to solve in this project is that not all information can be passed through the sign language. Since the deafblind person cannot see or hear those things that is going on in a school environment, the deaf and blind loose information that is obvious to us who can see and hear. There is a solution to that problem. Some people in some countries are using social haptic signs, with success, to be able to get more information in the comminuication. Those signs (social haptic) are additional to the sign language and placed on the back or on the arm of the user. The social haptic signs gives the deafblind information that is obvious to us, who don't have this condition. For example:

  • Description of persons, moods and atmospheres
  • Description of surroundings and rooms
  • Directions
  • Colours
  • Food and drinks
  • Warnings, etc.

The problem is that those social haptic signs are not widely used and not spread around enough.

Four European countries want to gather all social haptic signs in use, in each country, among the users in this project. Then we will categorize them, record them on video, photo and illustrate them, in order to make them accessible free on a website, for people to learn from. That website is widely used by the deaf and their educators as well as sign language interpreters. Those people who are very important for the communication with the pupils and students with deafblindness.

With our work, we seek to contribute to the improvement of the education for pupils with deafblindness, as well as to provide important tool for teachers and interpreters. Ultimately, we want to contribute to social inclusion and participation of people with deafblindness in the schools of Europe. We have the ultimately tool to reach out and get full impact at the dissemination. We have a sign language dictionary that is used by 19 EU member states and also covers Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey. This project will also helps us cover the sign language of Finland too, which is a minority language in Sweden and Estonia and needs to be accessible.