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Last month, I wrote here on abledbody.com about a new captioning application for the iPhone that lets deaf and hard-of-hearing moviegoers follow the dialogue of almost any movie in any movie theater in the nation. Subtitles, as this app is called, was developed by Dan Walker, who did not realize that it would greatly benefit deaf and hard-of-hearing moviegoers. Movies are hardly ever captioned; deaf and hard-of-hearing people usually frequent select movie theaters that show movies with open captions or use the Rear Window Caption System, usually at specific times of day. Because I am deaf, using the Subtitles app I was able to watch “Avatar” at my local movie theater in New York City, two blocks away from my home, for the first time — even though I have lived in this neighborhood for four years. Earlier this week, Dan Walker was notified by Apple that his app violated ... keep reading »
Amtrak’s website was down, and I needed to book my ticket from Stamford to Boston for the sixth annual Games for Health conference. G4H focuses on many uses for videogames and videogame technologies in health and healthcare. I’m speaking at Game Accessibility day on May 25 about games for people with physical and mental disabilities. So I decided to use TRS — telecommunications relay services for the deaf — to call Amtrak instead. What should have been a three-minute online booking experience turned into a one-hour, agonizingly slow relay call, reminding me again why I chose to get a cochlear implant to help me hear on a regular telephone, which I can use most of the time. Sometimes I like relay because I can ensure that I’m getting the right information, and I get the automatic 15% Amtrak disability discount. It’s all about the perks, right? It can be so frustrating for ... keep reading »
Ah, video and search. Frank Sinatra said it best: Try, try, try to separate them – it’s an illusion. Here’s proof of that: Speech Technology. This week, Google sealed the deal on video search capabilities for its YouTube portal, saying it would provide auto-captions for all of its uploaded videos using proprietary Google’s Speech Technology. Google’s initiative, piloted in November, began with a handful of partner channels including PBS, Stanford University and National Geographic. It has now expanded to all uploaded English-speaking videos, with more languages to be added later this year. With this news, Google establishes itself as a frontrunner in the Internet programming space. As a company built on search, search, and more search, Google is now able to capitalize on its investment in speech-to-text technology to index videos, target advertising and create an actual profit margin for YouTube. In fact, video search is likely why Google acquired YouTube in ... keep reading »
I didn’t get to too many workshops at the Assistive Technology Industry Association conference this year, because I only attended for one full day. I did stop into a presentation on speech-recognition for the deaf, led by Ed Rosenthal, CEO of Next Generation Technologies, a consulting firm. Rosenthal is a certified partner, and been working for 20 years, with Nuance Communications Dragon NaturallySpeaking software, and says that the technology had its first real breakthrough about three years ago when it debuted its latest version — 10 Preferred ($199). Now, Rosenthal says, he believes the speech-to-text program works well enough to be used as a real-time captioning tool for the deaf in the workplace. The Dragon program is said to work “three times faster than most people type, with accuracy rates of up to 99% right out of the box.” In a demonstration, Rosenthal opened up a Word document and began speaking (into a ... keep reading »
Now that the thrust of the holiday movie season is upon us, let’s talk about something not so cheerful: Going to a film and not being able to hear it. Thousands of people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing miss out because they can’t follow dialogue on the big screen. Big chains like AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment, having been sued countless times for not having captioning systems, have agreed to settle lawsuits by installing some caption systems, in some cities. As a result, some U.S. movie theaters have this technology in place. The bigger nut to crack is finding a particular film, when you want it, where you want it. It’s almost fanciful, like trying to catch Santa in your chimney on Christmas Eve. Movie chains say they don’t want to disrupt their hearing audience, so they tend to run captions on just one or two new films — of ... keep reading »
On November 6 the FCC held a Field Hearing on Broadband Access for People with Disabilities at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. The hearing is one of many that will discuss ways to bring access to broadband to the nation’s 54 Americans with disabilities. The meeting included panelists from A.G. Bell, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology, a group that’s making a big push for a federal law that would require, among other innovations, closed-captions (for the deaf) and video descriptions (for the blind) for Internet TV and movies. Academy-Award winning actress Marlee Matlin also served as a panelist on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf. Federal Communications Commission Michael J. Copps spoke at the start of the meeting, and made it clear that the agency is working to make broadband access a reality for the disabled. Here are excerpts ... keep reading »
Advanced Bionics — the only U.S. cochlear implant maker — has been acquired by Sonova, a Swiss maker of hearing aids. Sonova will pay $US 489 million for Advanced Bionics in the deal, which is expected to close in February 2010, subject to approval. Buying the Cupertino, Calif.-based Advanced Bionics thrusts Sonova, a relatively unknown maker of hearing aids, into the broader landscape of hearing-health technology. Sonova will be the first global company to manufacture both hearing instruments and cochlear implant systems, or CIs, which are implanted devices that enable profoundly hearing impaired and deaf persons to hear sounds. As part of the merger, Advanced Bionic will combine with Phonak, a Sonova unit that makes micro hearing systems such as personal amplification systems. The two companies will remain as independent units under the Sonova umbrella. With a more diverse hearing health portfolio, Sonova is betting that it can capture more share of the ... keep reading »
The New York Times chronicled the exasperations of buying a hearing aids, reminding users that aids are expensive — with prices averaging $2,000 each — and generally not covered by insurance. Hearing aid shopping is a pressing issue for those with hearing loss, especially those with age-related loss who aren’t used to such large out-of-pocket expenses. The best advice, however, is to choose an experienced audiologist or specialist, instead of relying on walk-in stores or Internet purchases. It’s the only way to ensure fit and a program that’s right for you. “No matter how state of the art your hearing aid may be …if it is not properly programmed and adjusted it will not do you any good,” says Lise Hamlin, director of public policy for the Hearing Loss Association. While most people pay for hearing aids with their own wallet, a few exceptions include Veterans Affairs programs and some federal employee ... keep reading »
It didn’t mention Abledbody and I’m not really a Yankees fan, but I got a mention in today’s insightful New York Times article about Cory Macchiarola, the man who is behind the scenes captioning Yankees and Mets’ games for the deaf and hard of hearing. It’s a really tough job, I can imagine. Macchiarola began his career captioning Yankees games for TV in real-time. Not only did he capture the broadcasters’ play-by-play, he also translated live commentary from the sportscasters — some who talk a mile a minute; others who discuss “obscure movies with foreign names or unexpected topics like the fear of flutes (aulophobia).” After several grueling years with the Yankees, Macchiarola took a job at Citi Field to caption the comparatively easy public-address announcements at Mets’ games, which appear on the scoreboard. A lot of the text can be pre-programmed, including the lyrics for the Star Spangled Banner and Sweet ... keep reading »
When Apple announced a host of new features for its next-generation iPhone in March, they unveiled a few surprises, but kept the best ones under wraps. Until today, at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Apple revealed gigantic news: its new iPhone 3G S has a built-in screen reader for people with visual impairments — bringing this group one step closer to total cell-phone accessibility. The 3G S introduces VoiceOver for iPhone, Apple’s proprietary screen reader that speaks what appears on the iPhone display. VoiceOver lets visually impaired users make iPhone calls, read email, browse web pages, play music and run applications. TOUCH-SCREEN TECH. VoiceOver is already built into the Mac and iPod Shuffle, but for iPhone this screen reader is a whole new ball game. Calling it the world’s first gesture-based screen reader, VoiceOver for iPhone reads aloud what is touched on the screen. Users can then gesture with ... keep reading »

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