Avodah Announces Four Distinguished Members to New Sign Language Projects Advisory Council

Julie Hochgesang, Ph.D., Manny Johnson, Melissa Malzkuhn, MFA, and Russell S. Rosen, Ph.D., to assist innovating ASL translation technologies


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DALLAS, Texas—June 14, 2022—Avodah, a transformative SaaS company powering artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, announced today the joining of four recognized leaders in the Deaf community to its new Sign Language Projects Advisory Council. Julie Hochgesang, Ph.D., Manny Johnson, Melissa Malzkuhn, MFA, and Russell S. Rosen, Ph.D., will guide the Avodah language team in strengthening connections with the Deaf community to create American Sign Language (ASL) AI-based technologies that ultimately become ubiquitous in their daily lives.


The four Council leaders possess unique expertise spanning education, linguistics, technology, the arts and finance.


“We are grateful to welcome these renowned experts in their respective fields and within the Deaf community to Avodah to help create more opportunities for signers and non-signers to make meaningful connections,” said Shawn Ring, Avodah’s CEO. “We look forward to learning from them about, for example, best ethical practices to incorporate in ASL data collection and the sign language interpretations to sensitize in our AI solution use cases. We’re also engaging the Council to introduce us to organizations to pilot test our ASL translation solutions.”


Avodah ASL Advisory Council members are:


● Dr. Hochgesang is associate professor of linguistics at Gallaudet University. She is a Deaf linguist who works on documentation of signed languages, ethics of working with signed language communities and making linguistics accessible to the communities. She has contributed to ongoing efforts to create accessible collections for the ASL communities, such as Sign Language Annotation and the Archiving and Sharing project.


● Johnson is a private business consultant to a number of companies and organizations. He has an extensive history of working with accessible technology companies that enhance the experiences of individuals who are Deaf. Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in science from the California State University, Northridge, with a focus in marketing. With AI technology advancements accelerating at an exponential rate, he is excited to find solutions to narrow the communication gap between sign language and spoken language users.


● Malzkuhn is the founder and director of Motion Light Lab, leading their creative research and development at Gallaudet University. Motion Light Lab is part of the Gallaudet-National Science Foundation Science of Learning Center on Visual Language Visual Learning Center (VL2). She is a co-founder of CREST Network (Cultivating Research & Equity in Sign-related Technology), which focuses on the equity and inclusion of Deaf people in the development of sign language technology; the ASL app to teach conversational American Sign Language; and the “Hu: To sign is human” campaign to raise awareness of early sign language acquisition for young Deaf children.


● Dr. Rosen is the coordinator of the Program in American Sign Language and Program in Disability Studies at the City University of New York College of Staten Island. His publications and research interests are in the anthropology and history of Deaf people and their community and culture and applied linguistics of ASL. He has served on the editorial board of several academic journals and as the president of boards of several schools for the Deaf.


Journalists: Download headshots of Julie Hochgesang, Ph.D., Manny Johnson, Melissa Malzkuhn, MFA, and Russell S. Rosen, Ph.D.


AI-enabled technologies are poised to play an important role in the empowerment of Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, allowing those who rely on sign language to communicate effectively and connect with non-signers and vice versa. Computer sensing technologies and AI algorithms are paving the way for new applications that address the issues that can arise when users of different language modalities attempt to interact.


“Since the Deaf community is incredibly diverse, there is ‘no one-size-fits-all’ approach. Every Deaf person’s communication needs and preferences are based on their own environment and the purpose of the interaction,” said Lori Miller, Senior Vice President at Avodah. “We’re excited for the Council to inform these distinct needs to enhance our modern AI sign-language recognition solutions.”


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