Faces behind talking hands: Laura, her sister Jami and Maria. Photo: Harald Schröder.
Today, September 23, is International Sign Language Day. We would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the start-up talking hands, based in Frankfurt.
Laura Mohn and Maria Möller are the founders of talking hands. Their idea: flipbooks that playfully teach sign language. Inclusion and communication are top priorities for them. They proof that language barriers between children with and without intellectual disabilities can be overcome. A selection of flipbooks can be found in our Special Olympics Shop.
In an interview the two founders tell us what is behind talking hands.
Maria and Laura, you two started talking hands together. First of all, what is talking hands?
Talking hands is a social start-up that we founded 2 years ago. We turn individual ges-tures into flipbooks so that children (and adults) can learn sign language in a playful way, making communication easier for everyone.
How did you come up with this idea?
Talking hands was originally Laura’s thesis in spring 2019 on the self-chosen topic “Trisomy 21”. She had chosen the subject because her sister has Down’s syndrome. The basic idea of talking hands was, to create a learning medium in the form of a flip-book. The flipbook teaches children the basics of sign language to enable them to communicate their basic needs at any time – even if their vocal language is not (yet) developed. Inclusion is only possible with successful communication.
You presented your start-up on the 100. Episode of the German TV show “Höhle der Löwen” by VOX. You aimed to convince the investors of your business idea and to get them on board. Unfortunately, none of the investors wanted to sign an official deal. Nevertheless, what were you able to take away from your appearance on the show?
Thanks to our appearance on the show, we were able to reach the audience and tell them about our mission and flipbooks. In the end, this lead to increased interest of educational institutions to work with sign language. Although we did not get an investor on board, the appearance was definitely worth it. Inclusion is a topic many people aren’t familiar with. At least a few of them might have heard about it thanks to the show.
Your flipbooks do not only serve as a great gift or activity at home, they are used in educational institutions as well. How, for example, can daycare centers use your flipbooks?
Daycare centers use our flipbooks primarily in everyday communication. Simple terms such as “eating”, “playing”, “toilet” are integrated into the communication as a gesture. That is called “voice-supporting-signs communication”. It makes it easier for children who are unable or not yet able to speak to understand the context and communicate their needs. For children who do not yet speak German it’s an important way to communicate as well.
On our journey to the Special Olympics World Games 2023 we are working closely with athletes. Wo works at and together with talking hands?
At talking hands, Laura takes over the role of Creative Director, and designs the flipbooks. Maria is CEO. Jakob is our programmer and currently working on an app which will be launched this year. Jami is our Chief of Logistics and packs all the orders. Also part of the team is Andreas Costrau, founder of the sign language school gebaerdenservice.de. He produces sign language videos which serve as a template for our flipbooks. He supports us with his expert knowledge. On top of that we’ve been getting support from three amazing working students for some time now.
An essential part of Special Olympics is sports. Are there already any sports-related flipbooks in your shop?
We currently have a few sports-related flipbooks in our big set, e. g. cycling, ball, gymnastics. However, we are working on extending the collection and we will add many sports such as basketball, soccer etc.
Last but not least: What is your favorite product from the Special Olympics Shop, apart from your flipbooks of course? 😉
The Bamboo coffee mug! We all love drinking coffee. 😊
Thanks, Laura and Maria, for the look behind the scenes of talking hands. You’ll find a selection of flipbooks in our Special Olympics Shop.