Dennis Lennartsson

Ashoka Fellow
Örebro, Sweden
Fellow Since 2013


This profile was prepared when Dennis Lennartsson was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Although multiple sign languages and sign language dictionaries have long existed, Dennis envisions a world in which these tools are newly accessible to a larger number of sign language users globally. Through the European Sign Language Center (ESLC), Dennis responds to the lack of a vital enterprise that can serve, connect, and expand the number of sign language users. Dennis has created a movement in which every sign language user has the tools needed to learn to read and write, changing the face of sign language by making it accessible, free for all, and legitimized as a language. Dennis removes the barrier to learning by mobilizing deaf organizations and universities in two-dozen countries to improve interactions across and within different sign languages.

Dennis’s approach is multifaceted. He has created several products and services, including the ESLC Spread the Sign online dictionary of over 100,000 signs from 24 countries, a phone application, eLearning platforms, an international network of deaf organizations and universities, and a text-to-sign tool to transform comprehension for the illiterate deaf. Dennis is building a new generation of people who understand the relevance of sign language as a resource for society. Not only has the ESLC enabled improved communication among the deaf, it also serves as a powerful purpose for family members, teachers, the public sector, universities, and citizen organizations (COs) who now have the tools to learn and teach sign language, as well as to integrate sign language into existing social norms. Dennis’s non-profit organization, ESLC, meets the deaf and the hearing world where they are, using creative and simple methods to spread the powerful possibilities that sign language offers.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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