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Zero Project 2021/2022

Transfer Model


Of the over 34 million deaf children worldwide, less than 2 percent of these deaf children learn to read in their lifetime, leading to lower quality of life. This problem exists for two reasons: deaf children do not have access to quality early grade reading resources in sign language; and families do not have resources to encourage reading with deaf children. In 2018, the Rochester Institute of Technology of the United States initiated the World Around You (WAY) platform to promote reading for deaf children and their families, including those in remote areas with limited or no Wi-Fi access in low and middle income countries.

The goal of WAY is to provide access to a free, online library of high quality reading resources in written and signed languages for deaf children and their families. WAY also has an authoring interface that allows for the creation and distribution of multilingual signed stories and written texts, featuring sign language storytellers. WAY provides training resources to help local communities collaboratively create stories and publish these stories globally. Additionally, the WAY platform provides visual guides on language development, storytelling, and bonding for parents to use with their deaf children. Word Around You has been developed to give deaf children access to the world’s knowledge through storytelling and expand the availability of high-quality reading resources in their own languages worldwide.


World Around You (WAY) is an open source, web-based editing and publishing platform. On the user interface, users can view stories and training materials. In the creator interface, content contributors (e.g., storytellers, writers, artists, signers) can design new stories combining images, text, and video of signing storytellers into web-based visual storybooks with ease in their local languages and cultures.

WAY’s digital library of storybooks and learning games includes popular and local folktales, science and technology stories and stories with deaf characters. When a new story becomes available, it is published on WAY and promoted through social media platforms.

This web-based solution also includes training resources on storytelling, publishing, story development with deaf characters and best practice modules in family shared reading and sign language rhyme and rhythm. The WAY development team, led by Dr. Christopher Kurz, a deaf professor, works closely with local in-country based teams of parents organizations, deaf communities, content and technical communities, educational institutions to increase free, high quality, reading resources in local written and signed languages.

The WAY Platform:

  • Includes local cultures and languages
  • Engages contributing communities through training
  • Publishes downloadable multilingual children’s books for free on WAY
  • Supports literacy development and world knowledge
  • Replicates stories, games and best practice modules in their local languages


With three grants from “All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge Development”, we partnered with deaf led teams from six countries (Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, and Somalia) to translate existing children’s books into local sign languages and develop new children’s books. To date, we have over 7000 new users learning sign language and learning to read. Through our training programs we have over 100 deaf and hearing people who became storytellers and creators. Our network has published over 300 stories to help deaf children develop their language skills. We will continue to measure the impact of WAY on family engagement and deaf children’s learning.


In the next three years we want to reach over 100,000 children, families, and creators with WAY in Latin America. Our long-term goal is to improve reading and language development among 34 million deaf children by replicating our storytelling and training models across the globe. We will achieve this goal by partnering with local communities to increase and expand access to our online library of free, high quality children’s books with deaf characters. Our second goal is to provide training and support on shared reading to encourage family engagement with deaf children.


We are seeking partnerships with local deaf organizations and schools who are willing to become crowdsource storytellers and content creators. We also need a committed group of IT professionals who are skilled with open source coding and software development to update and maintain the WAY platform. We need parents and deaf children to use WAY and give feedback on how we can continue to improve and expand the digital library and available training resources.

We are also seeking funding to launch a new version of the WAY platform and identify candidates to create an Open Source Technical Community responsible for long-term improvement and maintenance of the platform. This financial support will enable us to expand our reach into five new countries in the next three years.

Transfer Model

We plan to replicate our model for creating and translating storybooks, providing training and best practice modules in each new partner country. Because we use open source content, local communities may choose to translate an existing book from the library into their local languages. We also encourage communities to create new signed stories that can be added to the library. We adapt the training and support to meet each country’s needs. Through our community engaged training, we promote “growing your own” communities of storytellers and creators to contribute to the WAY library and training resources. WAY’s replication model also includes connecting communities to other international collaborators supporting WAY.

Further Info

Name: Christopher Kurz



Other links:


Instagram: @deafworldaroundyou

Twitter: @DeafWorldAround