Friday, 31 May 2019

Turning on the Captions.

Image result for turn on the subtitles campaign
Elsewhere signers are demanding more 'turning on of BSL' in media.  The issue with sign is you DON'T get an option to turn it on or off, if it is there, you are stuck with it. As averse to captions which you can choose or not to use, far too many BSL campaigns ignore choice. TV and films are a visual medium nobody has solved (or wants to), the conflict of imaging on programs, there doesn't seem to be an accepted format that is a norm either.   

It is far from clear what image the deaf signer is actually following, the film/Item? or the signed translation?   Most at grass root level would say the signer is the central person/image they are following.  Or, why some dedicated signing programs with BSL included are subject to Interpreter on-screen inclusion too?  If a digital option became available re sign translation choices, perhaps including the option 'whole screen' for the signer would perhaps be more effective, however, this means missing the action otherwise.  Some areas e.g. sport, suggest neither captions or BSL was entirely necessary, with regards to some weather reporting, captions obliterated some area coverage entirely. 

Most issues appear to have been overcome via captioning which tends to become invisible to most deaf and not interfering with what is being transmitted.  One suggestion would be to split the TV set into two parts with a captioning section below the actual program?  Then nothing is on-screen to detract.

Currently, there is no digital modus for an '889' sign option. Hence BSL moved to the media graveyard shift, and even the BBC handing the Deaf two dedicated programs for BSL (Despite others with hearing loss complaining they were frozen out of inclusion).   Why aren't there options visually in media?  Surely the technology already exists?  And if it does would lip-speakers come into it?  

Portugese sign language app gets Google funds.

Image result for hand talk appEarlier this month, Google AI Impact Challenge awarded HandTalk with a grant worth US$750 thousand. The app and website plugin offers real-time translations from Portuguese to Brazilian Sign Language for deaf users. HandTalk is one of 20 winners from the Google AI Impact Challenge, all of whom shared US$25 million in grants. Organizers surveyed over 2,600 applicants using AI to address social and environmental challenges. In the end, the corporation invested in 20 international non-profits, social enterprises, and research institutions.

Besides this pool of money, participants received consulting from Google Cloud and personalized coaching from Google-affiliated AI experts. Additionally, the chosen groups were invited to join Google’s six-month Launchpad Accelerator program.  During this time, participants have the option to develop OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) as well as establish timelines for projects. Every partner will also work with a Google expert for regular coaching sessions and mentorship.

With its portion of the money, HandTalk will elevate its platform that automatically translates Portuguese into Libras, also known as Brazilian Sign Language. The company strives to break communication barriers by making its product more accessible to members of the deaf community. While improving the quality of translations is paramount, HandTalk is also planning to expand its service to include American Sign Language.  Today, there are two main products under HandTalk’s model. With Hugo serving as an animated language interpreter, partners incorporate the Website Translator into their domains through a plugin. From there, Hugo translates texts into Libras.

Not only does this ensure better communication, social responsibility, and innovation, but also compliance with the Brazilian Accessibility Act. Under this ordinance, public and private sector entities must be inclusive to everyone, including people with disabilities. The second product is the app itself, which essentially functions as a pocket translator. It translates Portuguese text or dictations into Libras, not to mention offering a dictionary for language learners. Since the 2012 founding, HandTalk has seen over two million app downloads.

According to the World Health Organization, 80 per cent of the world’s 360 million deaf people can’t understand the spoken or written version of their native language. Just in Brazil alone, 70 per cent of Brazilian deaf people can’t read or write in Portuguese.

Google expects AI to remedy this predicament, hence its support for HandTalk.

Automating Lip-reading.

It's taken them a long time to understand what lip-readers (and sign users), already know.  Ergo lip-readers use the entire visual image to follow, the same as sign users do, we don't just look at the face, we try to take in the whole picture.  

If you observe the deaf signer then concentration is not on the hands most of the time, as averse to lip-readers where the face is all.  The issue with lip-reading is that it is assumed unless the total concentration is on the face it is hard to follow and there are fewer visuals that can add to it.   The issue we have is people cannot orate properly and the ideal situation for effectiveness doesn't exist nor do classes approach tuition to accommodate that. Less than 5% of deaf or hard of hearing people attend a lip-reading class.  

The ratio with deaf pre-signers attending classes is that even fewer of them do. The signer doesn't use many assistive aids to follow as the lip-reader tends to do, but often it adds to lesser understanding rather than improves it because we don't really know what we can hear, then guesswork gets involved, some of it educated some totally 'Half past two, how are you..'.  There are issues with body language as regards to different cultures and people too, as well as their etiquettes.

The study investigates a model that can use hybrid visual features for optimizing lip-reading. Lip reading, also known as speech-reading, is a technique of understanding speech by visually interpreting the movements of the lips, face and tongue when normal sound is not available. 

Experiments over many years have revealed that speech intelligibility increases if visual facial information becomes available. The research was carried out by Fatemeh Vakhshiteh with the supervision of professors Farshad Almasgan and Ahmad Nickabadi. In an interview with ISNA, Vakhshiteh said using a variety of sources for extracting information substantially helps the lip-reading process. According to Vakhshiteh, this model was inspired by the function of the brain because the human brain also processes several sources of information in production and reception of speech. 

In this model, deep neural networks are used to make the recognition of lip-reading as well as phone recognition easier, she said. “The neural networks were specially used for situations that audial and visual features must be processed simultaneously.” “This is especially helpful in noisy environments where the audial data produced by speakers might become less clear or incomprehensible.” “This would also help the people with speech difficulty because they can use their visual data to compensate for the interruption in the speech signal they receive,” she added. The research results demonstrated that the proposed method outperforms the conventional Hidden Markov Model (HMM) and competes well with the state-of-the-art visual speech recognition works.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Beethoven's Hair for sale.

Illustration for article titled Beethoven's Hair Turned Into Diamond for Sale on eBayI want a DNA test done on it to settle the question he was or wasn't hereditary deaf lol.  He lost his sign gene if he has.  Who are they 'Kidding'?

A lock of Beethoven’s hair is going up for auction after being snipped off by the composer himself almost 200 years ago. Beethoven gave the dark brown and grey strands to his friend, pianist Anton Halm, in 1826, just a year before he died. The precious and “substantial” lock is expected to fetch £15,000 when it goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s, London, next month. 

Beethoven only gave it to his friend after he was originally tricked with hairs from a goat. Simon Maguire, director and senior specialist of books and manuscripts at the auction house, said the lock had “arguably the best story behind it of any to appear at auction”. Sotheby's The lock is expected to fetch £15,000 when it goes under the hammer (Sotheby’s) More Halm was arranging Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge op.133 for two pianos, composed when he was deaf and now seen as one of his greatest achievements when the pair became friends. “Halm asked for a lock of Beethoven’s hair for his wife Maria….” 

Mr Maguire said. “The hairs arrived a few days later, supposedly Beethoven’s, but had in fact been cut from a goat. “When he had finished his arrangement, Halm brought it and the hair to Beethoven. “The composer was furious that his friend had been deceived, and promptly snipped off some hair and gave it to him, declaring it to be genuine.” The trick sparked “conflicting accounts of who was to blame for the original prank, one indeed implicating Beethoven himself”, he said. Beethoven’s biographer, AW Thayer, later spoke to Halm about the story, who told him that the composer had “turned to me with a fearsome expression and said, ‘You have been deceived about this lock of hair!’. “‘See what terrible creatures I am surrounded by, whom respectable people should be ashamed to be with. You’ve been given the hairs of a goat’.

Why no Deaf signing newsreaders?

Shakespeare - Pic of director (Cathy Heffernan)
Deaf seem to forget they already have TWO dedicated channels/programs for them in BSL already.  They can present news how they want on there free and gratis, care of 10m other taxpayers with hearing loss paying for it who aren't even included.

Deaf ARE a minority, but as they would still have to be accessed via captioning/subtitles, it would be no advance on what we get now.  Online primary access to news and other deaf people even on won dedicated sites, is still, TEXT.  Prime-time news exposes BSL as a format that does NOT include sufficient detail, mainly because the signs aren't there for it or the interpreters to ensure what is interpreted are understood by all sign users.  

There are huge differences already regarding deaf people's academic abilities IN sign language, without text even BSL Zone would be unviewable to most.  Much BSL has been taken off news reporting on prime-time because hearing had issues with visual interference on the screen, the only way to make it work is an '889' option whereby those deaf who want only sign can have it and others can turn it off who don't.  It's called choice, access is a double-edged sword isn't it?  

To be frank deaf appearances have been a bit iffy in regards to them all resorting to 'Deaf do this, and deaf do that..' creeping in at every opportunity, it's killing off their inclusion because nobody wants to watch an awareness lecture all the time. The reality, is that SEE HEAR and the BSL Zone have virtually no deaf viewers of note, they exist only because deaf activism saw a loophole in the 'cultural' access laws.  If it was via the numbers game the BBC etc apply to all ratings the Deaf would be out of it.  I'd like to see PROOF there is a real demand for it.  Every time we do ask, they change the question to a right, not a need because they know the numbers are against them.  They have agreed already UKTV is accessible already mainly because we have two options to access the spoken word, not, just one.  Preferences are a luxury, not a necessity. SO what are they actually asking for?

If we assume ALL minorities and Language should be on-screen, then, BSL is number 5 in the list of people by numbers and usage who should have it, with Polish/Urdu/Bengali ahead of BSL, and, what of sign users who want Signed English?  Others who want lip-speakers, Ignored?

The Article.

Progress has been made but a deaf newsreader remains a long way off, says Cathy Heffernan The words ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ might be overused but they are true. Programmes made in British Sign Language (BSL) allow deaf people who sign to be involved on screen – and behind the camera – in ways that mainstream TV doesn’t. Although TV in spoken language can be made (and often is) accessible to deaf people, it rarely reflects their lives and production teams rarely include deaf people. What BSL programming does is put stories about deaf people who sign on to the screen. All I had growing up was See Hear, short-lived series and a few films. Now, we have deaf children watching people like themselves fronting cookery shows and interview formats, and playing the leads in dramas and sitcoms shown on the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust (BSLBT) website and seeded on mainstream channels. What’s more, you’ll find many of the directors, producers, writers and researchers are deaf too. If you can be what you can see, you can aspire to a career in the media. The BSLBT has been commissioning since 2008. 

By offering an alternative way for commercial broadcasters to meet regulatory requirements to provide programming in sign language, it has delivered a sustained source of funding. This has allowed for more programme development, which in turn has generated more opportunities for deaf people. But limitations remain. Programme- making in sign language is in its infancy and remains conservative like 1960s TV seems to our modern eyes. One challenge for BSL programming is the visual nature of sign language – you need to see it to ‘hear’ it. Therefore, when editing interviews in sign language, you can’t paint the audio with archive or cutaways. The time is now ripe for some rule-breaking and experimentation. In Getting Personal, an interview format I developed for BSLBT, we shun the sit-down interview that has been the norm. Instead, we film in locations relevant to the story and bring more action and movement into conversations, so they are more visually interesting. It has been a challenge, but worth it.


New BSL App for Scottish Rail.

For deaf unable to read presumably.  Train operator ScotRail is introducing a new British Sign Language (BSL) app to help deaf customers communicate with staff. In what is being described as a first for the UK rail industry, the app directly connects someone travelling on their trains or at the platform to an interpreter through a video call. 

The interpreter will then pass on the query to a member of staff and sign the answer back. ScotRail access and inclusion manager, Andrew Marshall-Roberts, said: “We’re committed to making the railway open and accessible for all, and teaming up with InterpreterNow to launch this new app is just one of the ways we’re doing that. “Customers using British Sign Language as their main form of communication can now have the confidence to travel by rail, knowing our people can help with any query they have in a simple, straightforward way.” 

The app, which launches on Thursday, uses the InterpreterNow service and is open to “any part of their journey” – from information to disruption times to queries at stations or ticket offices. Just knowing that access in your own language is available throughout your journey is not far off ground-breaking Andy Irvine, InterpreterNow Andy Irvine, operations director at the tech firm, said: “We at InterpreterNow are delighted to have been working with ScotRail on this solution. 

Monday, 27 May 2019

Breaking News..... Breaking News.

Are Deaf people political? (UK).

Politics IS accessible to deaf people. These vlogs don't help anyone and, they lack accessibility too.   Whether that political access is via BSL is debatable, but is it wanted? it's immaterial, if you can read you can be involved. If deaf voters are claiming an inability to be involved in can only be for 2 reasons, a refusal to unless it is signed, or, a refusal to demand or use, the access they already have.  What is hard about putting an X on a paper?

I was always told there are 3 issues we should avoid, they were sex, religion, and politics.  But all 3 govern our lives.  Both myself and my partner are fully informed on the recent MEP voting last week and, we both voted without issue. Like other deaf people we look at other deaf areas online and were appalled at the bias and ignorance BSL sites are producing, taking every advantage of dependent BSL users to plug their particular brand of nonsense and disinformation, always adding 'Hearing are preventing us..' to ensure if deaf DO vote (Most don't or won't anyway), the vote is against what is portrayed as hearing discriminators, the actual political point long since lost, this is abusing neutral information access for deaf people.  

The widespread usage of statistics and attacking other bona fide views as 'fake news', an unwelcome USA import,  is rife in the online 'cut and paste' deaf world, sadly those deaf who follow such areas are being manipulated.  Very often bombarded with 'facts' that are never explained or details ever compared with opposing points, AKA 'Party A says ....' and 'Party B says ... ', etc.  Which is the right and democratic way to inform.  A lot is over the BSL grass-root head, there is little or no attempt to bring the explanations to the level of clear comprehension.  The promotion of politics aimed only, at those with the sufficient level of written and academic attainment as they have, the hoi pollie deaf aren't really included or follow like sheeple.   

THIS post I am told would be 'beyond the BSL using reader', or at best, non-accessible because sign isn't included.  My response would be that it is identical in format to what online deaf are already using.     There are virtually NO signed explanation in social deaf media its all text.  

My initial ventures into signed explanations made me a target for the purists of BSL, it wasn't worth the effort in the end, they would diss every sign made.  I can sign to make myself understood they wanted something else, control over me and what I said, failing that bans and blocks.  No attempt at all to include or accept less than what they viewed as 'real sign' coming from a 'real' cultural supporter.  And they wonder why they are out of it. 

The end result being deaf got little or none at all, from us as non-cultural deaf, Hard of Hearing, deafened, or from hearing neither.  I was amid the very first in the UK to add subtitling to a vlog, and 80% rubbished my signing and condemned the use of captions.  I never signed for them again. As we see by this vlog they are STILL anti-captions or even averse to adding narrative.  We can only assume it is BSL-Only stuff, how to inform deaf people.... NOT.  It's not even preaching to the converted, as nobody takes any notice.

The current Brexit issues in the UK are almost completely polarised, the Deaf politico sites are too.  Sadly, some pro-European deaf areas use their sites to block, undermine or simply attack other deaf who don't agree with that, their consensus appears to be pro-EU and anti-everyone else.  Leave areas just ignore them and appeal to the majority instead.   The online moderation is as extreme as their viewpoint is, there are NO deaf sites in the United Kingdome that explain in simpler terms what is going on, so that grass root deaf can make up their OWN minds.  And none in BSL either!  You are either for remaining or determined to leave the European Union altogether.  Whilst factual reporting is complex and difficult for hearing to follow, it is almost totally beyond the deaf.  They lack the more able deaf to explain properly.

They vote with their feet mostly, not get involved, then blame it all on others.  If they want things to change then they have to stop contemplating their navel and wasting considerable effort chasing culture and join the real world and understand and get involved with what is going on.  If you want to follow national politics, then, you cannot do this from a deaf isolated stance, the mainstream will not see any link between sign/culture and Brexit.  Stick to the issues in hand.    Start reading hearing areas, start attending meetings, join online hearing areas, they are all text no excuse not to put a point.  It just exposes the reality, BSL is their problem in access terms, but as we are more than just sign we can use other means too, those who won't, just leave them where they are.

If someone wants some explanations with no bias feel free to ask...

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Terp agencies are biased?

Image result for Robin HorwitzJobs for the boys?  Perhaps not.

There are about 1,300 sign language interpreting agencies in this country. Approximately 15-20 of them are deaf-owned interpreting agencies (More of an estimate at this point).  What can we do to boost deaf-owned interpreting agencies?

Generally the advantage they have is an ability to acquire information from other business owners quickly and without any immediate barriers.

Here's an idea: Let's do a weekly meet up via zoom for deaf-owned interpreting agencies to share information (i.e. how to drive up revenue, RFP, operations, Finances and more). Anybody interested in this?

What else can we do to improve this number of deaf-owned interpreting agencies? Any ideas?


How do deaf agencies work?  By employing hearing people to answer the phone?  or being able to lip-read fluently?  Seems a conundrum to me.

How to Fake Hearing loss..

How to talk to people that cannot hear you.

Image result for awarenessAnother well-meaning blogger who doesn't appear to understand the basics of hearing loss or how to raise real awareness about it.  These tried and never viable suggestions keep being trotted out as awareness by rote and sheer habit despite not being all that successful.  The real awareness should be with us and it isn't.  

It also assumes we are lip-readers and, that lip-reading is highly effective under set conditions, another myth.   Anyone today with a hearing loss will by default accept text is the most reliable method bar none.  Technology that enables that to happen is the only real in to those with hearing loss.  The article does not even cover the degrees of loss or, the abilities of the individual or medical conditions that prevent any of the suggestions noted from being viable, its a 'one size' fits all that fits nobody.  

What suits you won't suit me etc....  The basic 'ask me what will work...'  is a complete question mark.  If you can understand THAT request.........  The blog would not have been an issue of response but for the fact, it is tagged as for 'deaf and Hard of hearing'.  Just more abuse of those definitions and they are ALL at it.  I don't think you should create awareness by telling people what they should not be doing, as it may well work for others with hearing loss.  Don't do this, and don't do that, is a turn off.

The Article:

Is there a person with hearing loss in your family? If so, then you know all about what to do —and what not to do— for effective communication, right? Are you a person with hearing loss in a family where everyone else is hearing? If so, you know how difficult it is for your family members to remember and carry out the communication basics, right?

For most people, it’s just not easy to making the changes necessary for effective conversations. Assuming that there have been some preliminary talk about the basics – face me when speaking, don’t yell or over-enunciate and don’t starting talking to me until you’ve got my attention – the problem, to my way of thinking, boils down to things:

The person with hearing loss has not learned how to let others know their needs or understand that these needs must be expressed over and over again. Why? Because they expect their loved ones to rise to the situation and understand that every conversation is in danger of going down the communication toilet.

The hearing person is not a mind-reader, can’t tell if the hearing person is in communication difficulty, and so assumes that all is well. Why? Because they had a similar conversation yesterday in the same place, and the relative seemed to be coping, when in fact he or she may actually be fluffing (pretending to understand).
These two common scenarios are like a water balloon – perfectly designed to explode into an emotional mess. The person who can’t hear well is anxious at being cut out of the flow and the family member is impatient with the hearing aid user who doesn’t seem to stay engaged.

There are about two million variations on this scenario, which is played out, every day in lives affected by hearing loss. It takes time and practice and open dialogue to create conversations that approach what they used to be like in the family: spontaneous, humorous, or at least, free-flowing.

I know what I’m talking about, because I’ve been having the hearing loss conversation for 60 years. Sixty years! So believe me when I tell you – don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Here are the steps the HEARING people need to take to get back to the good stuff.

Get the person’s attention before starting to speak. A little wave, a little tap, putting your face in their line of sight – these are good things.  Don’t start a conversation from another room. Just don’t. If we answer, it’s only to say something like – “Are you kidding me? You think I understand you?”  Face the person – always. Whether we know it or not, we are speech-readers, and can understand you when we can see you.

And because of point #3 above, please ensure your mouth is free of food, gum, cigarettes and spinach stuck in your teeth… We won’t understand you because of the first three items, and we won’t be able to concentrate because of the last.
Don’t yell or over-enunciate. Neither of these are helpful – the first one hurts our ears and the second one makes you look stupid.

We don’t do dark. We understand better in a well-lit room, with little or no background noise.  If you’re not sure if I’m understanding, ask me. (Just in case I’m not assertive enough to ask you to do something differently.)  And never, never, never say ‘never mind’, if you’re asked to repeat yourself. It’s hurtful and if there was a reason you said it the first time, that’s a good enough reason to repeat it.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Roger, over and out.

Visually Disabled need help too?

Can't help feeling the whole awareness gigs by the deaf and the disabled are at odds with each other.  Discriminating at some individual or group with an 'obvious' disablement seems pretty simple to ID and address in real terms, as averse to those who discriminate against people whose issue is IN-visible (those with mental health issues, or the deaf etc).  

All discrimination is poor but, how do you highlight an issue you cannot see?  Or in the case where that disabled person doesn't want to be accepted AS a disabled person?  There are areas like the deaf, the blind, even Autistics, who feel their 'issue' is their NORM and not a disablement, what then?  Is it discrimination regarding an issue THEY don't recognise?  It isn't disability discrimination is it?  So can it be pursued under the Anti-Disability Acts or Laws?  The primary issue is people feel the human rights law is more effective a tool than equality or anti-discrimination laws are.

A significant culture shift, driven by leadership teams, is needed to tackle the bullying and exclusion that many people with visible differences experience at work. Almost a fifth (18%) of people across the UK identify as having a visible difference – such as a mark, scar or a medical condition that affects their appearance – and more than a third (36%) had experienced hostile behaviour because of this, according to campaign group Changing Faces.

Discrimination How to use anti-discrimination policies more successfully Police forces should ‘positively discriminate’ to boost diversity At least 1.3 million people in the UK are estimated to have significant disfigurements, including 569,000 with facial disfigurements. Much of the discrimination they faced was in the workplace: 36% said they had been discriminated against when applying for a job because of the way they look; 40% felt they were judged by potential employers and 41% had not applied to certain roles because of their appearance. The problem is not limited to recruitment: 64% experienced hostile behaviour at work; 19% have felt uncomfortable around colleagues or have received negative comments; and 10% have been ignored by their co-workers. 

 Despite the Equality Act 2010 offering workers protections against discrimination, many people felt their employer had not been effective enough in preventing it from happening (34%), while 40% said the law did not offer them enough protections at work. 

Monday, 20 May 2019

Defining hearing loss.are hearing aids a fudge?

Related image
Are you wearing your hearing aid for fun?  Or just to fit in and for reassurance?  ATR explains the view.

"I used a hearing aid well beyond the point of it because it could still detect noise.  The fact the noise was not clear or understandable even, was immaterial as the fact I could HEAR something.  It saved a lot of heartaches really.  I know in some part I was fooling myself.  It's an issue 'Deaf '  people will never understand.  Some would say that wearing an aid that was no real help in understanding speech or music etc was pointless,  my own mother wore hers to the grave despite hearing nothing at all with it e.g, but it kept me this side of reason for quite a while.  

It gave me the time I needed to come to terms with going completely deaf and the trauma that created, which while most of us sadly never achieve 100%, but at least it allowed me to manage it to a degree.  The trick is to accept why you use an aid at all when its real usefulness as access is obsolete.  If it is to appear hearing you just fool yourself and get fool as a label too.

I'm not a born-again deafie or something, Seen that didn't like it too many become martyrs, saints preserve us all from those who have caved in to that hype and become martyrs to the cause.  You never really overcome complete hearing loss after formative years of hearing.   Anyone who says different is lying to you.  It's perfectly OK to miss what you had.  It was the suggestion from others even systems, that I needed to accept an ID change and a new social life yadda yadda, to save my sanity, that spurred me on, I was determined NOT to do that and be my own person.

If deafness did anything for me it was to examine who I was, warts and all, until that point I had only seen other deaf in the media and had nothing to do with them, and what I saw wasn't what I wanted.  of course, my background was pretty much part of it, 'Your issue, only you can solve it ...' sort of thing, that was instilled in me by my parents, also 'Get a grip' was pretty much the only advice you ever got.    My parents would have been very angry if I had sought help from the system.  Their initial response to my deafness was something perhaps few other parents would do, they opened greengrocers and put me behind the counter alone, sink or swim some would call it.

Basically, solving your own problems, it is what a shrink will try to tell you is the only way forward anyway, so cutting out the middle man at least saves the fees even if you are away with the fairies a while.  My hearing had already gone the way of the dodo, I was not going to blindly follow suit.  I think men have these issues worse, they aren't natural talkers or would tell their issues to other men, whereas women do this all the time.  Does talking make things easier?   I did wonder if that worked at all, because sharing issues can become an  'issue fest' and you can get bogged down with other people's problems and forget yours is still there, so when the talking stops you are still at base camp,  or maybe it doesn't even get off the ground because the primary problem is communication at day one, you would need to understand and be understood by others to debate the pros and cons of it all..

The prime issue is attaining where possible some communication effectiveness again, it is another vital decider what that approach is, forget what the pat suggestions are explore what options are there but don't restrict them, and don't opt or just one, most of us fall at that fence straight away.  I think managing hearing loss or deafness has enough challenges without adding more to them by wringing my hands and wailing why me? or turning on others to blame etc, it is satisfying up to a point to allocate blame elsewhere, and its part of the deal, but in the end the reality tends to catch up with you.  Blame isn't the cure.

The suggestion by others to sacrifice all I knew for an alternative social life or popular deaf culture did not really appeal I have to say.   The key was communication initially finding what worked, not what was available and seeing where that would take me. It took me 11 years to get there.  I proved the myth deafness was NOT a commonality between other cultures or even perceived ones, time acquired and defining my own ability level was.   Forget the 'awareness'  gigs it doesn't work for them either.  It's more a 'this is the way to cope with deafness...' depending on who says it or defines it for themselves, obviously that is not going to work for you because you, aren't them.

As stated earlier on, losing hearing forces you to confront yourself, it is at that point you define what your future is to be.  I cleared my own path, I have the scars to prove it.  I felt playing follow the leaders through paths they chose not me, and not the right way to do things.  I do fear the systems of 'support' such as they are don't help really, a one size fits all that is never really geared to all,  is a waste of everyone's time.  I tend to avoid cultural involvement its focus is too narrow.  Hearing loss is about that, LOSS, it's not about never hearing anything at day one.  Perspectives and approaches are entirely different, but it does seem the systems have not understood that at all, rendering awareness a complete waste of everyone's time."

Popeye said it better  'I yam what I yam'.

Move those Lips...

Whether they realize it or not, most people read lips to some degree. People with hearing loss read lips to a large degree – almost every time they are listening to or talking with someone. It can be a shock to discover, after developing hearing loss as an adult, that your partner, children and friends do not “give good lip” as I wrote about in a recent article. 

 It’s even more shocking when, after telling your loved ones about, oh, 6,423 times what you need for good communication, they still forget how to speak in a way that works for you. But is that totally their “fault”? It’s not easy to change a lifetime habit of mumbling or speaking too softly or quickly. Especially when the only person asking for a change is you, the one person in their life who has hearing loss.

In an internet discussion on how to stop mumbling, professional speaker Lisa Marshall says this about how to improve speech articulation: “Here’s the short answer. Use diaphragmatic breathing. Relax your mouth and jaw. Stand up straight and make eye contact. Open your mouth wider to speak. Enunciate every syllable. Do daily vocal exercises to improve your enunciation.” The long answer by Ms. Marshall looks at the reasons why a person may mumble or speak quickly or softer, including nervousness, not really caring about being understood, and/or lack of focus on the conversation. 

 People generally don’t speak as clearly these days as in older generations. In the rush to get our thoughts out, or the niceties out of the way, words are only partially pronounced. Wha? Howza family? Whatcha doin’? And this is spoken with lips held so close together that a piece of paper wouldn’t slide between them. Even the most sophisticated hearing aid can’t understand words or sounds emitted through a miniature blowhole. Perhaps people with hearing loss – myself included – need to accept the reality of explaining our needs over and over again. Just as there will always be days of frustration.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

When Sign doesn't cut it....

Subtitles are more than just words, they create a story, a vision, an understanding. They’re not just hugely beneficial for deaf and hard of hearing people, but for those with other disabilities such as Auditory Processing Disorder and those who English is not their first language... 

People are exposed to subtitles on a daily basis without realising they’re using them... social media videos are adding subtitles as a way of getting the message across to those who don’t play sound out loud while out and about. Cafes and pubs often have subtitles on TVs, public transport has scrolling announcement screens! 

The problem is we need subtitles to understand what’s being said, but we’re up against those who say subtitles are distracting - so we have no choice but to watch in silence not understanding what’s being said. We’re excluded from social outings such as the cinema because of the lack of subtitles.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Hearing aids that can read your brain.

An image of a crowd of people
But, can they clarify what you hear lol.    Hearing aids that read your brain will know who you want to hear If you have difficulty hearing, it can be tricky to make out a single speaker in a noisy room. A system that amplifies the voice you want to listen to could help. 

Imagine you’re trying to have a catch-up with your best friend in the middle of a noisy pub. Despite the distracting background noise, you are able to filter out the hubbub and can still hear all your friend’s best gossip. This so-called “cocktail-party effect” comes naturally to many of us, but for people who use hearing aids, coping with irrelevant noises is difficult and deeply frustrating. A potentially transformative new system, however, can work out who you want to listen to and amplify that voice. 

To understand the listener’s intention, it uses electrodes placed on the auditory cortex, the section of the brain (just inside the ear) that processes sounds. As the brain focuses on each voice, it generates a telltale electrical signature for each speaker. A deep-learning algorithm that was trained to differentiate between different voices looks for the closest match between this signature and that of the various speakers in the room. It then amplifies the voice that matches best, helping the listener focus on the desired one. 

The system, described in Science Advances, and created by a team led by researchers at Columbia University, was tested on three people without hearing loss who were undergoing surgery at North Shore University Hospital in New York. They had electrodes implanted as part of their treatment for epilepsy, meaning their brain signals could be monitored. The participants were played a tape of four different people speaking continuously. The researchers intermittently paused the recording and asked the subjects to repeat the last sentence before the pause, to ensure they were hearing it correctly. They were able to do so with an average accuracy of 91%. 

There’s one obvious drawback: the current system involves brain surgery to implant the electrodes. However, the researchers say brain waves could be measured using sensors placed in or over the ear, meaning the system could eventually be embedded into a hearing aid (although this would be less accurate). It could also be used by people without hearing loss who want to boost their ability to focus on one voice. Another difficulty is the time lag. 

It’s just a few seconds, but it could mean missing the start of someone’s sentence, says Nima Mesgarani, at Columbia University’s Neural Acoustic Processing Lab, who coauthored the paper. There’s an inherent tension between accuracy and speed at zeroing in on a specific speaker, he says—in other words, the longer the system has to listen, the more accurate it is. This issue requires further research to solve, but he says this sort of device could be commercially available in just five years. This study is just a proof of concept, but it shows exciting potential, says Behtash Babadi, at the University of Maryland’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who was not involved in the research. “Within just a few seconds, someone using a device like this could silence everyone but the person they want to hear,” he says. “This work is the first to really solve this problem, and it’s a leap toward making this solution a reality."

They Work for us?

They work for some but it isn't us.   A recent debate in Parliament discussing deaf week noted no health system had published anything much about it or the access they do or do not provide for those with hearing loss.  

As usual, huge disinformation provided by the BDA and others was rife and the complete manipulation of statistics to include people who were neither deaf or sign using was pretty blatant.

The Labour MP Catherine McKinnell suggested there was little or no access for the BSL using deaf which was completely wrong, as the NHS recognises ONLY sign using deaf, there are no records available to suggest they have any system to provide for non-signing deaf or the Hard of Hearing.  Perhaps she didn't have her aid on.   E.G. Wales has 47 BSL interpreters providing regular daily access to the NHS, Deafened and HoH have no support workers, if they haven't family there is nothing.  We bought mobile phones, I suggest the deaf get some.

Claims of 150,000 BSL using people and even 85,000 daily BSL users has no basis in statistical fact. It's a distortion of the 'deaf' aspect, i.e. people who have profound hearing LOSS, not BSL using deaf.   Nobody knows how many rely on BSL even amidst deaf people,  the last census stated 15,000 stated they knew BSL, but, knowing sign and daily reliance and usage are a different thing altogether.

The BDA counted family hearing members, BSL learners, hearing support workers (Yep the deaf have them and mentors and..).  Whilst the EU published a list acknowledging visual 'languages' in 1988 and again 1995 and again in 2005, there was little legality attached to it in law and in UK education still isn't because choice has made it almost impossible to run a tiered system set up, it would also create an imbalance of supportive education.  Mainly because deaf schools are closing down.  There was a lot of hysterical nonsense regarding Linguistic rights, norms, etiquette, (Everything but communication effectiveness), but little or no statistics on BSL usage and effectiveness regarding re-translating to hearing people.

The BDA is always about culture and linguistic hoo-ha, it was never about clarifying the language or the grammar issues sign use presents, having said that the support IS there for them, we would all like to know how much is actually taken up?  As the alleged 87,000 reliant BSL deaf (and 70,000 randoms), have never used them if they had demand would have made access no issue.  The MP was reminded of the factual implications of the EU 'directive' on signed languages, in that implementing them all on a legal basis was not binding but down to individual providers and needs.  It was the BDA who declared Europe had made BSL a law of some kind because they hadn't read the EU 'small print'  or understood they had no power to force the UK to comply.

Much was talked about BSL, in fact ALL the talk was about BSL and deaf week, but the BDA had to use the numerical fact of non-deaf to bolster their claims of lack of support, which was grossly unfair to non signers, and they couldn't valid own BSL numbers either, it's all guesswork and since nobody keeps accurate records other than clinical, there is little way to challenge the BDA's claims either.  In reality,  the deafened and the Hard of Hearing would stand to gain nothing at all from any Improvement in BSL access.  The D/d thing distorts everything and parliament keeps getting confused who they are actually talking about.  Access to education, to Health or to essential emergency services for non-signers is mythical, since, if you don't sign that's you out.  What is 'deaf week' about?  Most deaf had no idea it was happening.

The deaf social area shortcomings, we read the MP attach blame and preach the BDA mantra of 'Hearing are to blame' when, there are no stats to back up deaf attempting to bridge divides, there is some fatalistic attitude 'Hearing don't sign so what else can we do?'  It's a bluff, its defeatist if it isn't, its a con act.  all their campaigns are to consolidate where they are.  Providing deaf counselling is costly because people like the BDA claim they need specialist BSL and culturally aware staff and one on one assessment, but the deaf use GP's with a terp daily and think nothing about it, you're confused?  Join the club.  So seeing a consultant demands a different approach?

The BDA demands culturally aware clinicians to assess them, and because people like the BDA re urging deaf to refuse using their own  BSL terps to access local areas.  What happens then is deaf and their issues 'deported' out of the area, and in mental health that can mean they often cannot return either, set apart from family, and friends.

There were claims they had to ask the family to make calls to arrange appointments etc, but, HoH have had to do this since day one.  The reality is most deaf 63% prefer to ask the family to make those calls rather than take the responsibility to make them themselves.  Near all Health and emergency areas have text access, and all deaf use text so why aren't they phoning?  There is even a BSL relay system they can use, again WHY aren't these deaf using the provision already there?   Because the BDA says they have a right to BSL only access? It's there.

All GP's are obliged to provide access, all they have to do is ASK.  They prefer to complain instead.    The MP shows a glaring lack of access availability, no doubt spoon-fed by the BDA and others it isn't there, has she even asked the NHS?  The counter Charity the AOHL the UK's largest hearing loss charity with 10 times more members than the BDA (And provided the specialist BSL care the BDA doesn't!), regularly recognises NHS access areas and is currently running their latest list of potential award winners for.... proving access and support to deaf and others.  Quit the hype and stop using ignorant MPs as stoolies for culture. 

You have been outed time to play fair.

Downloading subtiles from YouTube.

Deaf Awareness Week (For those who didn't know).

The whole week seems to be complete postcode-driven lottery by all accounts, with vast areas of the UK deaf and HoH,  being totally unaware it was happening.  Do they not understand deaf awareness has failed to advance our access for the last 15 years?  It's just charity PR mostly with the obligatory signer front of house.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Drop the signed access to TV (UK) ?

Image result for cpaiotng with BSL TV

Bound to cause contention but has this deafened poster a valid point?  Access for access sake?  We know rights overrule practicality as it is.  To caption or to sign?  No room for both?  A response to discussions about captioning in televised media, access? or just an unwelcome distraction?

Commentor #1.

"As points of interest I DON'T want sport captioned because the display of text means I lose 30% of the picture. There is an issue attached to weather forecasts too in that if weather map displays your area in the lower half of the picture you have to switch captions off or you won't see the numbers. Trying to avoid contention I don't want sign language on the screen, it detracts far too much from what is going on in the item, there seems no size norm and some translators are extremely distracting.

I have no idea if the user of that medium watches the TV or the signer frankly, it doesn't appear possible to watch both. Including both tends to make me switch off altogether.   Media in the UK puts that access to the graveyard shift, so I doubt deaf watch it anyway. There should be a '889' option for them or something, although I am told demand for BSL access in TV is almost non-extant from the deaf themselves except as some tokenised inclusion and plug for their culture which seems to result in them arguing the pros, cons, and ability of the user and medium.

It's more a 'we have a right to it..' than 'we cannot follow without it'. By far the worst in the UK is SKY rolling news, a complete mishmash of text all over the place it often makes programs viable only if you turn captions off. SKY removed sign too because hearing complained of the same problems we do.  Is BSL really necessary?  They must expect miracles from a solo translator to follow any storylines with more than 1 actor in it and, it is not even in their professed language or grammar?

Monday, 13 May 2019

Deaf Culture is it welcoming?

Obviously, some feel it isn't.  Is the pressure and nature of the Deaf cultural approaches oppressive toward diversity and anti-wider inclusion?  Another post not included here from the same site also stated attempts to 'assimilate' the deaf into the mainstream are discriminatory.  Do they want in or not? Or are they so lacking confidence in their ability to do so, and using cultural 'norms' as an excuse?

"I am hearing. I am not Deaf nor am I a part of the community. But I have been doing a lot of research about the Deaf community, and while there nothing wrong with the culture, there are some things that I wish the deaf community would stop. "

The things said in the Reddit post are atrocious, but this is something else. It's sad that on top of all the problems CryptoDeaf already has, he was driven to suicide because he wasn't deemed Deaf enough to others.

These aren't people that have disrespected the Deaf community like in the Reddit post, these are people just simply trying to find a place where they fit in. These comments came from a video called Bias In The Deaf Community | ASL by Youtuber Rikki Portner.

D versus d

Are there degrees of deafness? There are types/causes not degrees.  Either you are deaf, or, you aren't.   'Degrees' pertain to hearing loss (db), not deafness. Ergo... the definition of deafness.  In general, there are three main types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed. There are also four agreed upon levels of hearing loss severity: mild, moderate, severe and profound.  Profound being deaf, hearing nothing at all.  

As regards to culture, this has no influence or effect on your ability or not, to hear.  It's a clinical or genetic thing even a disability depending on your own perception...  Of course, there is no 'Deaf V Deafened' we are different people, more integrated than the cultural side are because we don't tie ourselves down to 'Deaf' norms, educational approaches or communication options (Mostly because there is no support or desire to do so).

Deafened are 'Hybrids' in the loss world we can and do function inside or outside the hearing area or the deaf one, and even the hard of hearing areas,  we are the third alternative.    If only 'Deaf' realised this they could emerge from their own cultural straightjacket by taking our hard-won advice won via very difficult experience.  We continue to drive advances too.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Hearing Like me..

What deaf awareness really means to your charities.

Image result for Charity Profiting on disability

The Hard Sell.  And you thought it was actually about making mainstream aware of your need.

Deaf Awareness Week

Hello ****,

Time’s running out on our Deaf Awareness Week Sale. Get 10% off 10 bestselling products for hearing loss until 12 May.   Buy online or order by phone from our Customer Services team. And remember, every purchase helps fund our vital work.

Warm Regards,

Action on Hearing Loss Solutions 

(UK's leading charity for the deaf and Hard Of Hearing, and recently criticised for not making awareness gigs accessible).

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Aren't you Glad Deaf awareness week is nearly over?

Image result for you don't look deaf!
Deaf Awareness Week: 'You don't look deaf...' (thought I'd put a pretty face on knowing how the image is all, and nobody would care if she signed or not anyway).

I know I don't look deaf,  (Not even to other deaf at times),  with a face like mine nobody would ask, or expect I was anyway, (The poor impression of a nodding dog tends to be a real giveaway as NOBODY relates to everything), and since none of deaf week relates to the majority of deaf people or the those with hearing loss at all mostly, I'm always glad when the charade finishes.

No I don't look deaf,  so how can I tell people off who aren't aware I am?  Do I carry a label on my back? a card to explain? a tattoo 'I am deaf'on my forehead? or maybe throw a few signs out so they get an idea? (Not that it helps if they don't know any but...).   The fact 'gasp' I can speak OK just ends to get me accused of being a fake more than anything from the Deaf and from the Hearing.

Identifying the invisible has always been an issue by default, but so has the extreme reluctance of those with an issue you cannot see to self-identify either.  All part of my right, my culture etc...  Or hoping the will go away and cease stressing you out.  A quick perusal of deaf week plugs threw up a lot of telling statistics e.g. 63% was about deaf language and culture.  There was only 15% relating to alternative formats and options to that, the rest people plugging support and advice services for a nominal fee.

Supporting the deaf doesn't come cheap.  Supporting the rest isn't an issue we can't sell that support.

Xbox braille controller

Microsoft  has been leaning into accessibility in gaming lately, most visibly with its amazing Adaptive Controller, and a new patent suggests another way the company may be accommodating disabled gamers: an Xbox controller with a built-in Braille display.

As you might expect, it’s already quite hard for a visually impaired gamer to play some games, and although that difficulty can’t be entirely alleviated, there are definitely things worth doing. For instance: the text on screen that sighted people take for granted, documenting player status, items, onscreen dialog or directions — how could these be read by a low-vision gamer who might be able to otherwise navigate the game world?

In many circumstances, a screen reader is what a visually impaired person would use to interact with this kind of data, but often that text is relayed to them in audio form, which is far less appealing an option when you’re in-game. Who wants to have a computer voice reading off your armour levels and inventory burden while you’re trying to take in the ambient environment?

There are already some Braille display accessories for this kind of thing, but there’s nothing like having support direct from your console’s designer, and that’s what Microsoft has demonstrated with its patent for a Braille-enabled controller.

The patent was filed last year and just recently became public, and was soon spotted by German tech site Let’s Go Digital; there have been no official announcements, though the timing is favourable for an E3 reveal. That said, patents don’t necessarily represent real products in development, though in this case I think it’s worth highlighting regardless.

The Braille Controller, as it’s referred to in the patent, is very much like an ordinary Xbox One gamepad, except on the back there appears to be a sort of robotic insect sticking out of it. This is the Braille display, consisting of both a dot matrix that mechanically reproduces the bumps which players can run their fingers over, and a set of swappable paddles allowing for both input and output.

Friday, 10 May 2019

How to sign swear words...

New Zealanders discover Milan!

NZ was jokingly reviewed by Brits as 12 years behind everyone else, rather a revelation to see they are even much further behind than we thought.  Resurrecting the 19thc does not seem a way forward for the deaf to me... we are still trying to drag them out of the 20th.  Creating oppression when there isn't any relying on the experience of people dead 140 years ago doesn't seem relevant today.  Or the fact sign was really developed at that time.  So we have moved on, it's called progress.

E.G. Deaf schools closed because we are being INCLUDED, no bad thing (depending on where you hang your cultural hat.)  Erm.. supporting A G Bell won't win you plus points in the USA they hate the poor bloke, he's dead too but they won't let him stay dead insisting he still sneaks about haunting the system by offering alternatives to silence and sign language.  The ID crisis is self-inflicted because it is culture versus inclusion. Instigated by the abler savvy deaf who profit from maintaining deaf isolation and constantly updating the martyrdom approaches with paranoia.

Despite being made an official language in 2006, the history of New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is coloured with discrimination, and its future is equally as murky.  In 1880, teachers of the deaf gathered in Milan, Italy to discuss the future of Deaf education. In the forefront of discussions was the existence of sign language.  Deaf schools in Paris, France had experienced great success with sign language, using Deaf teachers to teach Deaf students.

These teachers used a holistic approach to instruct students in sign language, anchoring their signs in real life objects and concepts. The approach was so successful that some students went on to become Deaf doctors or lawyers.  However, at the time, prominent US inventor Alexander Graham Bell had achieved great results with teaching Deaf family members to lip-read, and this approach was brought to the Milan conference with much interest.

In addition to this, the Catholic majority of Spain at the time felt that sign language was an inappropriate method to talk to God. They believed that to speak to and be close with God, one needed a voice, and sign language did not fit that belief. There was a perception that the sign language community was closed off from mainstream society, and this needed to change.

This all culminated in the Milan conference in 1880, which possessed merely two Deaf teachers, deciding to effectively ban sign language worldwide. Many Deaf people lost their employment, including Deaf teachers, and in some instances children were strapped or caned for using sign language.

Around the same time in New Zealand, the government established the first Deaf school in the Christchurch suburb of Sumner and made the decision to incorporate the ruling from the Milan conference.  Deaf children in New Zealand were required to be separated from their families and live at the school, where sign language was forbidden. Lip reading and speaking were the only means of communication allowed, but was not the only means that existed in Sumner.

Forbidden from signing in public, students would communicate through sign after dark in the dormitories, and this underground signing was what lead to the development of NZSL. Rather than quashing sign language, the conditions in Sumner in fact lead to the birth of a wholly distinct and unique language. After students left the Deaf school, there was a desire amongst them to create a Deaf space - a place where they could socialise, and sign. This led to the establishment of the first Deaf clubs, spaces for the community to gather and exchange experiences. The schools and clubs all fed into one another and made for a rich, developing Deaf community.

However, the present situation of NZSL and the Deaf community today is a far cry from the past. With Deaf schools closing and Deaf children forced into the mainstream, there is significantly less NZSL and Deaf culture exposure.

AUT Deaf studies lecturer Rachel Coppage fears that, given time, this could lead to the erasure of NZSL. She worries that with Deaf youth unable to easily access their culture, they can find themselves adrift and experiencing what she refers to as "an identity crisis", unable to fit in either the hearing or Deaf world. The fragmentation of the culture, and a declining Deaf population thanks to medical advancement makes for an uncertain future.

Innovations that increase digital inclusion for people with disabilities

According to the World Bank, as many as one billion people—15 per cent of the world’s population—have some form of disability, therefore find it difficult to use modern technology.
Innovations that increase digital inclusion for people with disabilities.

As many as one billion people—15 per cent of the world’s population—have some form of disability, with around three per cent suffering from severe disabilities, according to World Bank. For most of these people, accessing modern technology and all it has to offer presents a host of difficulties. Even something as simple as using a cell phone can be impossible. Global Accessibility Awareness Day (May 16) aims to combat that.  Launched in 2015, the day is designed to get everyone thinking and talking about improving digital access and inclusion for people with disabilities.

Braille keyboards/refreshable braille displays.

Nearly 40 million people in the world are blind, according to the World Health Organisation. A further 217 million have moderate to severe vision impairment, meaning access to modern technological tools such as computers and smartphones is not straightforward, and can sometimes be impossible. However, with the advent of braille technology—first keyboards and later refreshable braille displays—many blind and visually impaired can use modern technology that was not designed with them in mind. 

The latter technology works by converting the information on the screen of a phone or computer and translating it onto a specialized braille keyboard. With the advent of braille technology many blind and visually impaired can use modern technology that was not designed with them in mind. With the advent of braille technology many blind and visually impaired can use modern technology that was not designed with them in mind. 

Voice assistants.

The rise of technology is bringing about a frictionless world, where carrying out tasks is becoming less and less manual. Voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Amazon Echo allow people to do everything from order groceries and taxis, call loved ones, send emails and look up information all without much movement at all. Voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Amazon Echo allow people to do everything from order groceries and taxis, call loved ones, send emails and look up information all without much movement at all. 

While it is convenient for able-bodied people, it can have a huge impact on the lives of those with physical disabilities or those with physical functioning difficulties, of which there are 38.2 million people in the US alone. Voice technology has also expanded into the home, with the likes of Apple’s HomeKit and Google Home, meaning physical tasks such as controlling the heating, lighting, music and more has not only become digital, but also much more convenient. However, there is still a way to go for voice assistants when it comes to meeting the needs of those who have difficulties with speech and using their voice. 

Smartphone-ready hearing aids. 

According to the CDC, nearly 40 million adults in the US have trouble hearing and WHO estimates that by 2050, nearly one billion people will have ‘disabling’ hearing loss. Living in a world dominated by portable communication devices such as cell phones can feel incredibly isolating. However, technology has adapted to ensure people suffering from hearing loss are able to make the most of the latest innovations. Major technology companies have been working with hearing aid designers to ensure their devices are compatible with the hearing aids that people need to rely on every day. 

Video calling Smartphones.

Have grown from luxury devices to must-have basic essentials.  According to Pew, 2.5 billion people have one—digital communication has never been so integral to everyday life. However, people suffering from hearing loss for a long time couldn’t use the very thing that made cell phones so useful: making calls. The rise of face-calling, be it through Skype or Apple’s Facetime, allows deaf people to talk to family friends through sign language or lip reading, thereby opening up the fundamental feature of digital communication devices to them. 


Seattle has recently passed a law that will require venues such as restaurants, bars, gyms and even stadiums to use live-captions on their TV sets during business hours. This is where the audio on TV is converted into subtitles in real-time, opening up many more opportunities for people with hearing difficulties to enjoy modern technology. It even extends to the workplace, with the likes of PowerPoint introducing live captions and subtitles, allowing deaf and hard of hearing people to enjoy real-time subtitles during presentations. Google also revealed its own live-captioning service at its 2019 I/O, which will transcribe any audio or video including apps like YouTube and Instagram, and even videos the user makes themselves. 

 Assistive touch.

Assistive touch on smartphones like Apple and Android allows people with limited motor functions use products that require frequent and specific gestures like tapping, scrolling, pinching and swiping. Assistive touch allows people with limited motor functions use products that require frequent and specific gestures like tapping, scrolling, pinching and swiping. It also allows users to create their own shortcuts and gestures, as well as adapt how users interact with the screen, for example, changing how long you touch the screen for before it is processed as an action. This feature allows users to move across the screen without clicking on something until they are ready. 

Touch-free technology.

For some people, the use of their voice or most of their body is impossible. Stephen Hawking famously communicated, worked, lectured and gave interviews despite suffering from ALS, a motor neurone disease that left him almost completely paralysed.  He managed to do so through a computer created by Intel, which was operated using Hawking’s cheek muscle movements. Over time, more mass-market ready products and eye-tracking technology emerged, allowing people to control their computers and smartphones simply using just their eyes and head movements. Despite suffering from ALS, Stephen Hawking managed to communicate through a computer created by Intel, which was operated using his cheek muscle movements. 

Assistive apps.

It’s not just hardware that has evolved to be more digitally inclusive. Whole apps are dedicated to ensuring everyone, whatever their needs, can enjoy modern technology. Some even go further to help users not only get the most out of digital life, but also offline.  Apps like Be My Eyes connect blind or low-vision people with trained people who provide visual assistance through video calling. Other apps help colour-blind people by announcing the color to them or by playing music while retaining the sounds of their surroundings. Smart-glasses While Google Glass failed to make an impact on the mainstream market, its legacy lives on in companies like AIRA, which uses the concept of smart glasses to help people stay connected online and off. AIRA’s smart glasses were originally based on Google’s smart glasses designs. 

While Google Glass failed to make an impact on the mainstream market, its legacy lives on in companies like AIRA, which uses the concept of smart glasses to help people stay connected online and off. The company uses smart glasses to connect blind people with trained staff who can describe their surroundings to them. Other companies, such as NuEyes, have created smartglasses that help people with low-vision by doing things like zooming in, changing colour and contrast, reading out text and scanning QR/Bar codes. 

Gaming Controllers.

According to a US survey conducted by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, 43 per cent of Americans use gaming consoles, while 52 per cent use computers as gaming platforms. The video game industry has never been more popular, scoring revenues pushing $44 billion in 2018—a new record. And digital inclusion in this sphere has never been more important. Navin Kumar, the director of Product Marketing at Xbox, revealed in 2018 that 14 per cent of Xbox gamers have a temporary disability, while eight per cent have permanent mobility limitation. Xbox released a new Adaptive Controller in 2018 that caters to gamers with disabilities. 

The controller is compatible with external joysticks, pedals and more. +10 Xbox released a new Adaptive Controller in 2018 that caters to gamers with disabilities. The controller is compatible with external joysticks, pedals and more.  There are also rumors that the gaming console will release a braille controller sometime in the future. 


It’s not just gaming controllers that are being created to ensure people with disabilities are not left behind. Games themselves are evolving to adapt to different people’s requirements. Wraith Games has a team of game designers and artists, 75 per cent of whom have a disability, and the game company has created Collapsus, the block-crunching game, which has an abundance of disability options. 

Games themselves are evolving to adapt to different people’s requirements Even bigger budget games, such as Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4, are making their video games more accessible, allowing gamers to make control and action changes that work for them, for example, changing button taps to holding. The game consulted Josh Straub, the editor-in-chief of DAGER, (Disabled Accessibility for Gaming Entertainment Rating System) who has cerebral palsy and has been wheelchair bound his whole life.