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Telecommunications Bridging between Deaf and Hearing Users in South Africa Meryl Glaser Department of Health and Rehabilitation Faculty of Health Sciences.

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Presentation on theme: "Telecommunications Bridging between Deaf and Hearing Users in South Africa Meryl Glaser Department of Health and Rehabilitation Faculty of Health Sciences."— Presentation transcript:

1 Telecommunications Bridging between Deaf and Hearing Users in South Africa Meryl Glaser Department of Health and Rehabilitation Faculty of Health Sciences University of Cape Town William D. Tucker Bridging Applications and Networks Group (BANG) Department of Computer Science University of the Western Cape CVHI 2004, Granada, Spain June 29 - July 2, 2004

2 Overview There is a whole range of developed world possibilities. The South African Digital Divide strongly influences telecommunications for the Deaf. Based on these Digital Divide conditions, we have come up with social and technical innovations. These innovations are conceptualised in an abstract Internet- based communications framework called the SoftBridge. One of the applications of the SoftBridge is a semi-automated relay for Deaf Telephony. We are trialing this application in the field at the Deaf Community of Cape Town.

3 Introduction Proliferation of options for Deaf telecommunications Multi-modal communications on the Internet: text, voice & video Multi-functional and wireless devices: PC, Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), mobile handsets, text telephones Convergence of the telephone network & Internet These solutions work when both Deaf and hearing users use the same Capabilities Modalities Service interfaces Devices Networks Differences in any of these require some form of bridging

4 Bridging for the Deaf via Relay Telephone and cellular mobile Internet Text text telephone TTY Chat Instant Messaging Sign language Video Conferencing Web video conferencing Relay Operator bridges voice to/from with

5 Pre-requisites Components Awareness Availability Accessibility Affordability Appropriateness } Network Access Landline, mobile, Internet access, broadband End-user Devices mobile devices: cellphone, PDA PC, laptop, videophones User Interfaces Software and hardware interface Communication Modalities text, voice & video Human & automated relay User Capabilites Sensory, Sign Language, Text & ICT literacy

6 Local South African Digital Divide Population 45 million 45% rural Mixed developed and developing world 14 million cell users, 4 million landline 2 of 3 sharing handsets or using community phones 50% of households have no phone in dwelling 10% have no access to a phone at all Legacy of differentiated access

7 Another Example: The Phone Gap

8 Global Digital Divide Per 100 people Phone/cell41143 PCs Internet users figures from unstats.un.org/unsd/databases.htm

9 South African Deaf Demographics Estimates range from 4 million to 380,000 Depends on definitions of severity Deaf here means South African Sign Language (SASL) as the preferred language Deaf community 30% of Deaf adults are functionally illiterate 65% of all Deaf adults are unemployed Many are underemployed Impacts on socio-economic status All adds up to little or no ICT access or literacy

10 Deaf Telephony in South Africa Deaf people have little or nothing at all 3 rd party mediation over the telephone network Teldem Extremely small connectivity circle (650 at best) SMS on cellphones, even landlines (coming!) Not synchronous or reliable Expensive TISSA – Telephone Interpreting Service South Africa 6 month government-funded pilot finished , Instant Messaging, Video Conferencing Digital Divide issues: access, literacy, expense No relay service

11 Motivation for our Approach In light of the South Africa situation, our aims are to: Increase connectivity options to the Deaf Provide synchronous communication Fully automate the relay Provide low-cost solutions Offer multi-media and multi-functional capacity Support mobility Establish community-based rather than individualist model

12 The SoftBridge concept Device Interface Modality User Device Interface Modality User Network Abstracted communication system Semi-synchronous Synchronous when possible Asynchronous otherwise Inspired by Instant Messaging, SMS and

13 Device Interface Modality User Device Interface Modality User Network Deaf UserHearing User voice audio handset Telephone text GUI PC Internet Spoken English Written English A softbridge application: Deaf Telephony Semi-automated relay with an Instant Messaging delivery system Examples Hearing user intiates conversation Deaf user initiates conversation

14 Field Trials with end-users Pilot trials with ICT-literate Deaf user in the lab Recent activity with the Deaf Community of Cape Town Installed community PCs in the Deaf community centre Trained 20 Deaf people in basic ICT skills Added Wizard of Oz functionality to combat poor Automatic Speech Recognition System instrumented to collect system and user usage metrics

15 Future Work Action Research and software development cycles to change & improve functionality and interfaces for Deaf and hearing end-users South African Sign Language with video as a bridged modality Mobility with Wireless LAN (WiFi) and GSM/GPRS PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants, e.g. Palm, Pocket PC) Cellular handsets Guaranteed delivery of messages, e.g. emergency services Carrier-grade functionality to make service attractive to service providers

16 Sponsors and Partners Muchas gracias: Deaf Community of Cape Town participants, John Lewis, Jason Penton


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