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March 31, 2007

IBM addresses multimedia access for blind. Deaf access where?

IBM has developed a browser to make multimedia content such as video, accessible for blind people.

The browser also allows video to be slowed down, speeded up and can accommodate an additional audio description or narration track that is often included to make films and television programmes more comprehensible to blind people.

The volume controls also allow the user to adjust the sound of various sources independently - for example the main audio track, an audio description track and output from a screen reader.

Whilst this is encouraging, and kudos to IBM here, it also assumes the person can hear too. What about deafblind people's access?

IBM goes onto state that:

"We're beginning to look at accessibility as a very important business area," said Frances West, director of IBM's Human Ability and Accessibility Centre.

"This is not just from a social responsibility standpoint, but with ageing baby-boomers we think that such technology could really benefit the population in general because all of us will be on this ageing journey."

This is encouraging, and addresses a bit of my concern yesterday, re lack of access to multi media content. Like every person out there, I would like to see audio access addressed already. Where are the subtitles, the voice recognition to translate videos into subtitles? I wish IBM and other companies would move quicker on this. However, technology solutions alone cannot address access, and it needs to come from people's attitudes too.

It seems that the project is open source, which will allow other developers to chip in with content. Something developers in the deaf community could learn about, and the downside of keeping source code closed - egos are not more important than getting better technology:

The company plans to "open source" its new accessibility software in order to make it available to the largest possible number of people.

March 30, 2007

Vlogging grows, where's the subtitles?

vlogs.jpgValleywag picks up on some statistics from Meefeedia, on the growth of vlogs. Deaf vlogs are a bit behind this, and I give a history in this post.

With the growth of vlogging, I have one question: where is the subtitles and solutions to address this? Deaf access where? How do you balance this with individual expression?

When is policy and legislation going to be reviewed to address online space? As I said in this entry over on Grumpy Old Deafies, we have to redefine what we mean by broadcasting. A subtitling petition that addresses television is far too narrow in scope, and needs to be opened out. What is the Deaf Broadcasting Council, TAG, NAD's Technology Committee doing to address this? Committees: all get yourself a blog and communicate with us. Sheila? Ruth? Penny? David? And others, please say something.

What can we do as ordinary individuals to address this? I'm wondering if online space is similar to what we experience in physical space. Deaf individuals will frequently interact with hearing people: when they go to the supermarket, the bank, at a party, at some club. All these instances are individuals communicating, and we won't necessarily be able to access what comes out of their mouth. Unless of course they are bilingual. As online space develops, online space is just an extension of someone in meatspace, and we shouldn't expect access to individuals. Organisations on the other hand are different as they would be in the physical world, however, the BBC has still not addressed a permanent subtitling solution.

There's a conference in Banff (Canada) in just 6 weeks time which addresses standards. However, I don't see anything on multimedia content access there? Who's going and who will get our point across? With an increasing output on the web focused on audio, one has to ask the question: who's addressing the access? Someone please correct me!

We so badly need policy in this area. Before this can happen, there has to be a commitment and Deaf involvement to make this happen.

March 28, 2007

deafread.net, did you ask permission?

This website design is a spitting image of this template.

Could I ask if permission was granted from Jay Koster to remove the credit at the bottom? I'm told the guy who designed it is about 20 years old, and would hate to know if people were ripping others off, especially since this has been approached as a business. Not trying to pick a fight and would love to be corrected. Am just concerned re the interests of respect and transparency.

March 11, 2007

Blogging and conversation

On the subject of social software, I really like Deaf UK Technology* right now. Its small enough to have a kind of community feel about it, tech focused you still get to know people a bit, and its a way of keeping in touch. The discussion tends to be product related, thus I can lose interest a bit. Perhaps one day the boundaries might be pushed a bit, and recognition of how software is used in community building. Deafies in the UK aren't alien to this concept, its just not acknowledged enough.

Which brings me onto my next point, why aren't more UKers blogging? Blogging is supposed to be about about conversation, which a mailing list could be described to an extent. However, blogging creates a sense of ownership, and pushes thoughts into the mainstream. Mailing lists can be difficult to navigate thoughts from individual users. Why would you want to do this? Simply to get to know someone, and through this process, you might even begin to trust them. Taking thoughts and discussion outside of a mailing list and pushing this into the public arena gets more exposure to issues. A mailing list by comparison (although can be public) does this extremely poorly, and there's always an element of control by an over zealous power centric moderator.

Whilst individuality is important, as a blogging community we need to start joining up and acknowledging each other a bit more. Its all part of conversation.

On the point of conversation, I was talking to Rob last night, who was complaining about the lack of comments. This in part had something to with new posts being alerted to people you know who read your missive on IM. Instead of commenting, people will then reply direct on IM. I get this too. However, it does not generate interaction, and blogs aren't supposed to be places where you are passive receivers of information: read then go away.

There's a bit of a comment whore in all of us, I suppose it massages the ego a bit: someone out there is paying attention, and what you have to say is remotely interesting. However, it goes well beyond this. Blogging is conversation, just in another form, and without conversation or indeed interaction then what's the point? Its not very Web 2.0.

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* Disclaimer: I'm a "moderator" of DUKT, but try and treat it as a passive admin role.

Twitter

TwitterHow many of you are using Twitter out there?

I've got a bit of an early adapter streak in me, when it comes to software, particularly social software. I just love to explore how the net can be used for productivity even collaboration, I will try software for trying its out sake. I'm curious to find out where this is all going, and immediately my head will go into overdrive around possibilities. Tony on the other hand, just accuses me of having ADD.

Twitter was one of these sites, and I signed up 4-5 months ago, just to satisfy my curiousity, thinking the novelty would die. Now its March, and I'm still there, as half the geeks on this planet. Its not something to be mocked at, and one to watch. It has been developed by Obviously / Evan Williams (the person who developed Blogger before it was sold to Google).

Twitter describes itself as:

A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing? Answer on your phone, IM, or right here on the web!

One would have to ask the question around privacy (people can manage what information they reveal here, or turn their account onto so only approved friends can see their posts). The other one is, do people really want to know the small details of your life? Perhaps not, and there's certainly no proclaiming that you are important enough. However, in some part there is something compelling about mundane details of people's lives and a way of keeping in contact with friends.

However, Twitter more than than this. Whilst you can do all the above on a one to one basis, with any of your friends, this is a many to many application. I just wish that my friends would sign up like right now, and use.

On a personal level, its a curious thing for me, as I'm not a sms fan, and friends know I won't turn on my phone for days, even weeks. Sms is reserved for really have to communication. The keyboard drives me insane, and if I really have to send a sms, I will resort to using Skype. Whilst I rarely Twitter via mobile, I have done and wish more people would join in.

If you want to read more on this try Mamamusings and Ross Mayfield (both blogs I've read since 2004). Even the Guardian has picked up on it. Also see my previous post about Twapper.

So who uses it? If you are considering signing up, you really need to add some friends: real or imaginary, otherwise its no fun.

Twapper!

Forget Twitter, there's now Twapper!

When are we going to see the video version then? What would it be called? Imagine sign language updates, and a group sign language conversation. Cool.

Update: WAP and grouping coming to Twitter. Grouping is really needed, and something I asked about a few days ago via Twitter.

March 10, 2007

Sign language for sale?

Scoble is on my list of Twitter friends, which translates as my phone going off every 2 minutes. He's at SXSW (which incidentally I've really wanted to attend since 2004 - small question, who pays for BSL/English interpreters?)

Anyhow, the point of this post, Scoble mentions in one of his messages Aweli are into "virtual product placement ads on videos". Which translates as vlogs carrying adverts, and the vlogger getting paid for it. I've blogged about getting paid for vlogging before, and how the Deaf community could and should utilise this a bit more. Due to our visual nature, we are more likely to watch videos as a method of communicating than hearing communities, thus a perfect opportunity. Someone should bridge a gap between companies such as Aweli and the deaf market (even as general consumers), to make this happen. Perhaps even set up an outlet yourself?

Its about vloggers getting paid to produce and in some ways encouraging uptake. There's of course the downside, and revenue streams should never dictate content as it compromises the impartiality of blogging. That said, do we really want to be bombarded with adverts? Sign language for sale?

March 9, 2007

Deaf people & Firefox Extensions

What Firefox extensions would you like to see?

Ken Saunders of AccessFox asks:

Firefox currently only has extensions for persons with poor eyesight, dyslexia, color blondness and for blind persons, but there are no Firefox extensions for deaf persons.

I'd like to do some brainstorming .... to see if that anyone has a suggestion for a Firefox extension(s) that will benefit deaf persons.

I can't guarantee that the extension will be made because I'm not a developer, but I have had a few extensions either made, or modified for persons with disabilities, and I know of several developers who may be able to help.

Here's my initial thoughts:

* An extension to automatically turn sound off in your browser, and sits at the bottom of your browser (as other extensions do) to be enabled / disabled. Sometimes I'm oblivious to my browser making a noise, and completely forgotten to turn the sound off on this.
* As an alternative twist to a sound extension, something that sits at the bottom to tell you if sound is currently being played or not, which gives me the option of on/off.
* Deaf blogs notifier
* Twitter notifier

Of course, the biggest one is an extension to subtitle all sound in the form of speech recognition.

So what extension would you like to see and why?

March 2, 2007

MSN: I'm Making a Difference Initiative

Deafies in the UK use MSN Messenger a lot. Put your usage of Messenger to use via the new I'm Making a Difference Initiative.

i’m is a new initiative from Windows Live™ Messenger. Every time you start a conversation using i’m, Microsoft shares a portion of the program's advertising revenue with some of the world's most effective organizations dedicated to social causes. We've set no cap on the amount we'll donate to each organization. The sky's the limit.

Since this is in theory limited to the USA you might have difficulty adding a code next to your name. Go to Options > and add any one of these codes next to your name (not in the tag line):

*red+u American Red Cross
*bgca Boys & Girls Clubs
*naf National AIDS Fund
*mssoc National Multiple Sclerosis Society
*9mil ninemillion.org
*sierra Sierra Club
*help StopGlobalWarming.org
*komen Susan G. Komen for the Cure
*unicef The US fund for UNICEF

Whilst I have my reservations about Microsoft here: what's the percentage raised? Is it so minimal that its a way for Microsoft to increase profits just by advertising this scheme? There's also the feel good fact that comes with fundraising, and for some an excuse to do nothing other than throw money at a problem. The Stop Global Warming is an example of this.

Since many of us use msn anyway, there's no harm in participation. Just wish this was opened up to the rest of the world on launch.