Lorm Hand

Communication Devices for deaf-blind People

Digital communication technologies are often referred to as systems of opportunities for social inclusion of people with disabilities, not least through the facility of communicating in relative anonymity, potentially free of certain prejudices and other social barriers. They are further described as tools for activism, empowering individuals and fostering autonomy (Shakespeare, 2008). In the research project Lorm Hand – Communication Devices for deaf-blind People (Bieling/Martins/Joost 2017) we have been exploring possibilities and challenges in the design of assistive technologies within a context of communication with or between deaf–blind individuals. It is based on the idea of translating the Lorm alphabet, a tactile hand-touch alphabet used by deaf-blind people in several countries, into spoken or written text and vice-versa. The Lorm alphabet maps letters to gestures signed on the palm of the hand, making it easy to translate textual content into a haptic language.

The Lorm Glove, developed in this project, is a portable communication device allowing deaf-blind users to send and receive messages over a distance. It can interpret Lorm Alphabet signs through pressure sensors and relay them to a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. It can also receive text from a device and play it back as Lorm Alphabet signs, through tactile actuators. Messages can be translated to and from speech; as well as to and from other languages.

Using the Lorm Glove, a deaf-blind individual can communicate with those not familiar with the Lorm Alphabet, in a group or over a distance. The Lorm Glove allows deaf-blind users to stay in touch with friends, but also to browse and participate in online social networks. While empowering deaf-blind people to engage with various communities and gain access to a broader range of information enhances their independence, the Lorm Glove also brings an added value to a variety of other users, not only those with a disability.

In an iterative, participatory process in which the research team and deaf–blind individuals co-developed the project, the participants participated in all project phases, starting from the first explorations (e.g. regarding everyday life challenges or specifics of deaf–blind communication); jointly formulating hypotheses and research questions; ideating and conceiving (regarding potential design approaches/solutions); and evaluating (process, methods and outcome).

Overall this project tackles the issue around the processes of social exclusion and inclusion raised by technology, opening up important questions in regard to the politics of design, research and technology development. One of these is to clarify the positions design and design research can have in the social sphere and its construction, and thus in the structuring of society. One approach is to more fully integrate disadvantaged, disregarded or marginalised groups through the design process – and in this sense, design also means the determination of decisions, situations and processes or participation.


  • Design Research Lab / Berlin University of the Arts


Dr. des. Tom Bieling, Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost, Tiago Martins, Ulrike Gollner, Chiara Esposito, Fabian Werfel


  • Ongoing