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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Technology for the Deaf

And how people integrate technology into accessibility.

Technology for the Deaf    By Keith Kirkpatrick

Communications of the ACM, December 2018, Vol. 61 No. 12, Pages 16-18

A nurse asks a patient to describe her symptoms. A fast-food worker greets a customer and asks for his order. A tourist asks a police officer for directions to a local point of interest.

For those with all of their physical faculties intact, each of these scenarios can be viewed as a routine occurrence of everyday life, as they are able to easily and efficiently interact without any assistance. However, each of these interactions are significantly more difficult when a person is deaf, and must rely on the use of sign language to communicate.

In a perfect world, a person that is well-versed in communicating via sign language would be available at all times and at all places to communicate with a deaf person, particularly in settings there is a safety, convenience, or legal imperative to ensure real-time, accurate communication. However, it is exceptionally challenging, from both a logistical and cost perspective, to have a signer available at all times and in all places.

That's why, in many cases, sign language interpreting services are provided by Video Remote Interpreting, which uses a live interpreter that is connected to the person needing sign language services via a videoconferencing link. Institutions such as hospitals, clinics, and courts often prefer to use these services, because they can save money (interpreters not only bill for the actual translation service, but for the time and expenses incurred traveling to and from a job).

However, video interpreters sometimes do not match the accuracy of live interpreters, says Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the self-described "premier civil rights organization of, by, and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America."

"This technology has failed too often to provide effective communications, and the stakes are higher in hospital and court settings," Rosenblum says, noting that "for in-person communications, sometimes technology is more of an impediment than a solution." Indeed, technical issues such as slow or intermittent network bandwidth often make the interpreting experience choppy, resulting in confusion or misunderstanding between the interpreter and the deaf person.

That's why researchers have been seeking ways in which a more effective technological solution or tool might handle the conversion of sign language to speech, which would be useful for a deaf person to communicate with a person who does not understand sign language, either via an audio solution or a visual, text-based solution. Similarly, there is a desire to allow real-time, audio-based speech or text to be delivered to a person who is deaf, often through sign language, via a portable device that can be carried and used at any time. .... "

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