Here’s how new devices enhance accessibility and also improve the employment rate for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
According to FEMA, each year approximately 17,500 people are injured and 3,400 die because of fire.1 There are dangers associated with fire for everyone, but people with disabilities face unique challenges in these emergencies. As FEMA notes, people with disabilities may have more difficulty escaping during a fire. In addition, some disabilities may prevent them from taking actions ahead of time without the help of a caregiver, friend or relative.2
The Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) at Gallaudet University has released the first of a series of three bilingual storybook apps that will simultaneously help children learn American Sign Language (ASL) and English. The app includes an original story told in both ASL and English, colorful illustrations, easy & accessible navigation designed for children, interactive narrative with direct English to ASL vocabulary video translation, audio voice-over provided for all vocabulary words, and an 170-word ASL and spoken English glossary. Learning both American Sign Language and English at the same time, through a bilingual approach, has been shown to provide cognitive, language, and reading advantages for young children.
Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the nation’s leading institution for the deaf and hard of hearing, has published a report outlining what they call DeafSpace Guidelines that help design practitioners understand what to consider when designing spaces to be friendly to people with hearing impairments. Hansel Bauman, director of campus design and planning at Gallaudet, led the effort to create the guidelines. The resulting report describes five factors that impact the way in which people with hearing impairments interact with the built environment; space and proxemics, sensory reach, mobility and proximity, light and color, and acoustics.
More information about deaf space.
Concerned about fraud, the FCC is delaying funding any new companies hoping to launch telecommunication relay services until fraud prevention policies can be put in place. A recent article in the Washington Post reported that the InnoCaption app developed by Miracom is still awaiting approval by the FCC after two years.
Rocklin’s Purple Communications, Inc. and Tely Labs of Menlo Park have created a smart videophone, SmartVP, which features HD and smart apps for people who are hard of hearing. Users are able to access applications on the phone during calls, and also find similar convenience with apps like Captionfish, Yellow Pages, Weather, and more. The product hit the markets in early April of 2013.
Purple’s goal is to provide high quality video relay service for customers is based on a five screen strategy (PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone, TV). The company currently provides video relay service via desktop, laptop, and smartphone.
A new iPhone app for the hearing impaired recently hit the market late last year. Deaftel Wireless uses state of the art technology to convert a hearing person’s voice into a text message and a deaf person’s text response into a voice during a phone call. iphone users need only to visit the Deaftel website and sign up using their phone. The service is $5 per month.
What makes this innovation interesting is that the founder, Kunal Batra, did not initially set out to create a phone service for deaf people. He was working on an Indian Social Network, and one weekend decided to enter into a programming contest, where he could create a chat connected to a phone number. What happened as a result of this idea was the conversion of voice to text and text to voice. This is how Deaftel was born. After many emails from the deaf community seeking this product, Batra decided to focus on the app fulltime.
The new Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint, MI is a 80,000-square-foot, 26-classroom building that includes state of the art design and technology. All classrooms, and even some hallways, can accomodate flat-panel TVs and smartboards. Additionally the gym and cafeteria/auditorium feature large projector screens that can display game scores and schoolwide annoucements. All of the screens are connected so that important anoucements can reach all students at once. If necessary, school officials can also send an American Sign Language interpretation to secondary screens. Furniture in classrooms and the media center is organized in a cemi-circle to facilitate signed disscussion.
For just $0.99, a person who is both hard of hearing and an smartphone owner can be granted sound again. SoundAmp is a relatively new iPhone application that works by picking up sounds via the microphone, amplifying and processing them in real-time, and sending them to the attached earbuds/headphone. Also, with it’s “Boost” feature, high frequency amplification can be increased. This is paramount when talking to the elderly who tend to lose the high frequency range.