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Mon 14
Hand Talk wants to take Brazilian digital accessibility for deaf people in the US

Hand Talk wants to take Brazilian digital accessibility for deaf people in the US

After receiving a R$ 2.5 million investment, Hand Talk wants to reach the United States with tools which translate audio and texts to sign language

Beatriz Pozzobon

Brazilian startup Hand Talk, whose app was considered best social app in the world by the United Nations in 2018, received a R$ 2.5 million investment and will be taking their technology to the United States this year. The investment was made by Kviv Ventures, a trust fund owned by Casas Bahia’s Klein family, with a follow-on by Bossa Nova Investimentos, who gambled once again on the startup. The company is now consolidated in the country as a sign language translator, but wants to go beyond.

Hand Talk was born in 2012, after an idea adman Ronaldo Tenório had in college. Along with his partners, Tadeu Luz, an architect specialized in 3D, and Carlos Wanderlan, a systems developer, Tenório created an app that translates audio and texts to LIBRAS, the Brazilian sign language, through a virtual interpreter called Hugo. With over two million downloads, the app has an educational focus for those who are interested in the language.

In 2014, the partners developed the website translator, a tool which makes the online environment more accessible for deaf people. Using a plug-in, texts and videos from websites are translated to sign language. The plug-in enables digital accessibility for 10 million Brazilian deaf people since, according to the World Federation of the Deaf, about 80 percent of these individuals can’t fully understand the written language of their country.

The deaf community learns sign language as their first language, and most of them depend exclusively on LIBRAS to communicate,” explains Tenório, Hand Talk’s CEO. “Portuguese is a basically phonetic language, hard to be understood by deaf people, and most schools in the country still can’t provide a good learning structure for them,” he completes.

Transformed into an app and also a plug-in, Hand Talk’s visual interpreter, Hugo, may be widely used by the deaf community, as well as companies interested in catering to that audience.

Besides, and despite the fact that Brazilian digital accessibility has been mandatory since 2016, after the Brazilian Law of Inclusion, the online world is still not a reality for a significant portion of deaf people. “Companies which do not have an accessible website are not complying with the law. But, unfortunately, not many worry about that,” points out Tenório.

Hand Talk currently has a portfolio of 200 average and large-sized corporations which have installed their website translation tool. Among them are Samsung, Azul Linhas Aéreas, SEBRAE, Banco BMG, Avon, and Natura.

Early this year Hand Talk bought ProDeal, its main Brazilian competitor. The Recife (PE) company had among its customers Bradesco and Telefonica, who were incorporated into Hand Talk’s portfolio. The value of the acquisition has not been disclosed by the company.

Kyiv Ventures’ investment is the biggest one so far. All investments rounds amount to R$ 4.5 million of the company’s capital, a total of R$ 8 million invested in the platform. Next year, Hand Talk wants to double its customer base and launch the app in the United States.

“We have been working on translations for the American Sign Language (ASL) since last year. Launching the app in the US is the first step of the company’s goal, which is taking Hugo to other languages and having an impact on millions of people who also need that solution in other parts of the world,” concludes Tenório.

 

READ IT IN PORTUGUESE:

Hand Talk quer levar acessibilidade digital brasileira para surdos nos EUA

Após receber aporte de R$ 2,5 milhões, Hand Talk tem por objetivo chegar aos Estados Unidos com ferramentas que traduzem áudio e texto para a língua de sinais