Deaf & Hard of Hearing

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In this episode:

Mark Miller, the host, and Marissa Sapega, podcast producer, speak with Tony DePalma about the many ways COVID-19 has significantly impacted people with disabilities. From getting basic necessities like food to accessing student online education, the ways in which the pandemic has negatively affected this community are almost endless. Tony surfaces anecdotes from his own experience as Director of Public Policy for Disability Rights Florida and the three discuss the potential long-term outcomes of this global disaster – not all of which are bad.

The National Deaf Center estimates that more than half of the deaf community in the United States are unemployed. David Wantuck, community engagement specialist at deaf access services in Buffalo, explains that “It's not necessarily the fact of them not wanting to work… It is the fact of them having a hard time trying to get a job." Despite the challenges of finding employment, deaf people do have resources they can utilize. Buffalo’s St. Mary's School for the Deaf offers a work base learning program and Deaf Access provides services like resume reviews and mock interviews. 

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In this episode:

Victor regales the host, Mark Miller, with vignettes on how he and his team work to accommodate the almost one million people with disabilities living in New York City in all boroughs, as well as the thousands of tourists with disabilities who visit each year. They discuss the unique challenges of each borough when it comes to accommodating PWDs, and specific examples of has been implemented in Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and other areas of the city to make it more accessible.

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As you may have guessed from the title, today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)! If you don’t know what GAAD is, it is “to get everyone thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities.”  And, if you are coming to our site to learn about accessibility, you are in the right place!  Interactive Accessibility is known globally for being the experts in digital accessibility.

The company that brought Video Relay Service (VRS) communication to people who are deaf, Sorenson Communications, has now introduced the first American Sign Language (ASL) Phone Tree called the Sorenson Bridge.

The Sorenson Bridge will strengthen the way people with hearing disabilities communicate when using a VRS. The Sorenson Bridge replaces the time-consuming process of navigating audio phone trees using sign language interpreters with video menus shown in ASL. The ASL video menus make it much faster and easier for people whose native language is ASL to select the option they want.

Read more on the Sorenson Bridge

In an effort to bridge the communication gap between American Sign Language (ASL) speakers and people with hearing, two undergraduates at the University of Washington developed gloves that translate sign into text or speech.

The SignAloud gloves, invented by Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi, won the Lemelson-MIT competition. Sensors in the gloves record hand position and movement and send the data via Bluetooth to a central computer that analyzes the data through various sequential statistical regressions. When a match with a gesture is found the corresponding word or phrase is played through a speaker.

You can read more about the SignAloud Gloves on GAATES

Blappy is a blue tooth Android app that enables people with visual and auditory disabilities to effectively communicate. The app translates voice to text and text to voice and allows for high contrast images that can be viewed via the zoom feature. Because Blappy uses Bluetooth, it is intended for people who are 30 meters apart or less.

Blappy is currently available in four languages:

  • Spanish
  • French
  • English
  • and Portuguese

Conversations can be translated into all four languages.

Developers are currently working on an iOS version. The project was carried out with the support of UC3M's Audiovisual Accessibility Laboratory, which is part of the Center for Technologies for Disability and Dependence in UC3M’s Science Park

Here is more information on Blappy

A Texas A&M University biomedical engineering researcher is developing a device that, while worn on the wrist, translates sign language into text. The wearable tech uses motion sensors in conjunction with measurements of electrical activity in the muscles to interpret gestures.  It can already recognize 40 American Sign Language (ASL) words with an approximate 96 percent accuracy. This gives great promise that the device could bridge the communications delta between people who are deaf and those who don’t know ASL.

For more information see the GAATES article.  

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Gogo LLC have reached an agreement for Gogo to make closed captioning available for all of the programming content sourced by Gogo and streamed on-demand on their in-flight entertainment service, Gogo Vision. This marks the first agreement of this type with and in-flight entertainment company.

A new technology added by Gogo will enable customers to display closed captions for content with closed captions. Gogo is also sourcing new content with closed captions where available.

Read more on in-flight Closed Captions

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