SANTA FE, NM—Text messaging and online communication has just been optimized for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH) smartphone users. 

For just 99 cents, iOS users can now purchase Signily, the first ever keyboard app for American Sign Language (ASL) that offers various colors and hand shapes. The app, which was inspired by the growing popularity of the Apple Color Emoji typeface launched earlier this year in February, features left and right handed ASL letters in the standard “QWERTY” layout and offers three color choices. It also has standard punctuation symbols along with numbers 1 through 30, and an English keyboard designed to help those who are still beginning level signers.

Signily offers animated GIFs of colloquial phrases and profane gestures.
Signily offers animated GIFs of colloquial phrases and profane gestures.

In addition to its emoji-like symbols, Signily also features a set of animated GIFs, of certain gestures that represent colloquial phrases, such as “Ummm,” “See you later,” “LOL,” “I love you” and “What’s up?” The app also features the ASL gestures for profanity, and offers users an option to not to see or receive any of these obscenities.

Signily was officially launched on July 27, and currently has an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 39 customer ratings on the Apple App Store. Its founder, Deaf developer Suzanne Stecker, worked together with a team of other Deaf and native ASL communicators from ASLized, a Santa Fe-based non-profit organization that focuses on integrating ASL educational research into visual media and literacy.  All proceeds from purchasing the app will go towards the ASLized’s “emoji project,” which aims to get their ASL symbols approved by the Unicode Consortium to become part of the universally accepted language for computers. 

For now, the app relies on the copy and paste function to be seen by other people, both Signify users and nonusers alike. It is compatible with Email, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts and iMessage.

Signily requires iOS 8.1 or later, and can be used on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.  The app is currently in the process of creating a version for Android devices as well.