Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, friends! It's Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to cruise around with Vasyl Abramovych, co-founder and developer of Easysign. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Vasyl! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your startup?
Vasyl: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! Easysign is a venture that aims to address the exclusion of the deaf community in society by developing a means for them to be heard easily by everyone. In particular, we are developing a real-time sign language interpreter to ensure accessibility and good service for hard-of-hearing people in public places. We are promoting inclusivity and social awareness about deafness and sign language.
Spiffy: That is amazing! What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
Vasyl: Well, my co-founder Nataliia initially conceived Easysign when she learned that a friend and volunteer named Maryana, who had saved her family when they were refugees in 2014, suddenly lost her hearing and was no longer fully integrated into society. Wanting to give back and help her friend adapt to this new reality, Nataliia started working with the hard-of-hearing community to incorporate inclusion into her city's infrastructure. After meeting me, Nataliia decided to incorporate my knowledge of computer science and advance her project to impact the deaf community even more.
Spiffy: An inspiring story indeed! How would you say you and your team are working towards a more equitable world?
Vasyl: Currently, all over the world (and especially in less developed countries), deaf and hard-of-hearing people face daily indirect discrimination in public places. This includes spaces where good quality service is vital, such as hospitals and police stations. Our project aims to create a tool that will bridge these gaps and facilitate meaningful interactions between hearing and deaf members of society, allowing deaf members to also be included and taken care of.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make on your community or audience?
Vasyl: Nataliia recently started developing another branch of our initiative—providing a tool for the convenient study of sign language—which would make the community feel valued as more people learn their way of communication. I am now focused on exploring new frameworks to develop an advanced and efficient algorithm for hand-tracking that would also allow recognition of dynamic gestures. This development will be used for both branches of our initiatives, so the process of using the product is better.
Spiffy: Awesome! Best of luck to you guys on those cool developments. Please also share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?
Vasyl: When we started, we aimed to make a prototype for recognizing Ukrainian Sign Language. The first step in training our AI was gathering a data set. It turned out, there was no sufficient data set available on the web. We were perplexed at first, but then we decided to build our own data set. At first, it seemed to be a great challenge, but then we developed an algorithm that collects 3,000 images of each gesture in a needed format within minutes. This taught us to be more confident in what we do and help us act decisively.
Spiffy: Amazing! Thanks for speaking with me today, Vasyl—it’s been an honor!
Vasyl Abramovych is a Ukrainian student at the University of California, Berkeley, studying electrical engineering and computer science. He is a member of the Rise Global Winners 2021 cohort. Vasyl is passionate about combining technologies with entrepreneurship to use a human-centered approach in creating innovative solutions to complex real-world issues. Along with Nataliia Kulieshova, he is a co-founder and developer of Easysign. (Nominated by Rise of Schmidt Futures. First published on the Ladderworks website on April 17, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.