What began as an affinity for rap music has become an improved method of non-verbal communication for one community.
Mateusz Mach is the Polish teen responsible for the development of Five, “the world’s first messenger for deaf people,” according to the young entrepreneur. The app began as a way for him and his friends to send custom hand signs that looked like the ones his favorite rap artists would throw up. When designing the program back in 2015, Mach called on the skills of freelance coders who to help put together the apps for smartphones and the Apple Watch.
Soon, what started as a joke was being used by an unexpected audience: the deaf and hard of hearing. The small images were similar to the signs used in ASL (American Sign Language) and ISL (International Sign Language). As a result, Five began to emerge as a preferred method of digital communication for community where texting isn’t impossible, but isn’t entirely familiar either.
Upon realizing the impact his app was having, the 17-year-old developer began actively implementing the ISL dictionary into the software. The move not only expanded the app’s archive but gave deaf users more and more of the options they needed to communicate digitally.
The recent funding acquired by Mach will allow him to bring ASL experts on board to improve the app’s American appeal. Users can choose a pre-made or self-designed sign to identify themselves with, and invite their friends to use the messenger system through Facebook integration.
The app has the potential to affect a significant chunk of people. In the United States alone there are more than one-million deaf people according to Gallaudet University research.