Towards increased Sign Language glyph representation in operating systems

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Hello gals et guys:

As of recently I have been acquainting myself with persons of the deaf community. There is a real need to have hand sign fonts included with the operating system. I would like to know if these glyphs have been added to the Unicode repertoire. Windows? Mac OS X?

Also, is there any progress on adding SignWriting to the Unicode specification and what can be done to speed its adoption. (I wonder if Sign Writing is copyrighted so that it cannot be designed by other developers)

I would like understand more of the issue as it relates to design & implementation from the perspective of the deaf, hearing, operating system and application programmers.

Mike Diaz :-)

Andreas Stötzner's picture

No encoding activities known so far. The fish is too big for quick volunteer action.
I think the Sutton writing system is not copyrighted. Would make no sense. And: would prevent encoding.

From the technical point of view, encoding Sign writing is difficult because it groups glyph other than just along a baseline. Similar to Old Egyptian.

a publication on the subject:

the author:

She did a typographic font project for Sutton Sign Writing some years ago.

Slevinski's picture

The International SignWriting Alphabet 2010 is available under the Open Font License. All of the glyphs of SignWriting organized in an HTML reference: (view online) (download)

The Unicode proposal is maturing nicely. A 2 stage process will be used. The first will encode the glyphs only and will ignore layout design. Michael Everson has reviewed the proposal documents. He believes he can help write a refined proposal and successfully present to the Unicode Consortium. We're hoping to accomplish this in 2011.

A rough draft of the general Unicode proposal is on my site:

The detailed encoding for each SignWriting symbol is documented:

The second stage will propose characters needed for text layout and collation. This proposal will have to wait until 2012.

I am currently writing an Internet Draft for the ISWA 2010. This will fully document the standard and include an appendix with my practical script encoding model called Binary SignWriting.

I'm currently converting SignPuddle Online from the ISWA 2008 to the ISWA 2010. Then I'll finish the Internet Draft to document the standard. Then I'll update the SignWriting Image Server GPL software:

So, we're making progress. Almost off of the bleeding edge.

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Wow thank you for the input thus far.

So the Unicode processes need to be completed first before we can even think about operating system adoption... right?


Mike Diaz :-)

Slevinski's picture

Rather than the operating system level, the font engine level should be possible through SIL's Graphite application. The SignWriting data format works differently that other scripts, so it will require a significant investment to implement correctly. Maybe in a few years.

Application level is possible today with the current standards. The script encoding model has been relatively stable for the past 5 years. The symbol set has been improved and stabilized. The character encoding model has been optimized for faster processing and smaller size. All of our user generated data can be converted to the latest standards. I believe the combination of the International SignWriting Alphabet 2010 along with Binary SignWriting revision 3 draft C will be the standard for years to come.

The data can be stored as PUA Unicode on plane 15 or a custom hex string of equivalent or smaller size. Here's a hex example of BSW 3C: _0fa_1eb_38d_392_15d_38d_39a_376_38c_392_0fc_79c_7be_2f7_38c_392_78c_7b7_15a_38d_39a_776_77f_1eb_38d_392_782_781_22b_38c_396_78a_797_30a_38c_392_778_753_353_38c_392_778_753

I'll have the standards implemented in my application SignPuddle before the end of this year. I'll have the standards fully documented and ready for early adopters by 2011 Q1.

MichellePerham's picture

I'm curious where this system is currently being used. I've never heard of it.

I learned sign language about 15 years ago and have taken many classes along the way. I have an immediate family member who is deaf and know many in the deaf community. I've never known anyone to use or mention this system.

Slevinski's picture

SignWriting is used internationally. Check out the map of who uses SignWritint with links by country.

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