Guide: Technologies for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing

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1 Guide: Technologies for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing The following are examples of how technology can aid communication if you are Deaf or hard of hearing. These options may not suit all situations. Talk about them with your employer or your registered training organisation (RTO). Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) What is VRI? VRI provides an Auslan user with a sign language interpreter in a different (remote) location. It uses video or web cameras, headsets and a video conferencing tool (software) to connect with the interpreter. The following diagram shows how VRI can be used to provide two-way communication. Video conferencing tool RTO or Workplace Remote location Auslan user signs to interpreter via webcam Hearing person talks/listens to interpreter via a headset The Auslan user and hearing person are in the same location Sign language interpreter signs to Auslan user via webcam talks/listens to hearing person via headset

2 Who should use VRI? VRI can be used as an alternative when a face to face interpreter is not available for people who use Auslan as their preferred language. There are a variety of internet / video conferencing tools that can be used for VRI. The costs vary and the quality may be limited in areas with low bandwidth. Options include: Video conferencing facilities in the organisation These facilities are purpose built for video conferencing and often provide high quality images which are necessary for VRI. The facilities usually need to be booked in advance and may only be available in specific locations within the organisation. Australian Communication Exchange (ACE) ACE is a not-for-profit organisation which assists people who are Deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech or communication impairment. ACE have recently started a service called MultiMedia Response (MMR) so that people who are Deaf or hard of hearing can communicate with a hearing person through an interpreter and video. Internet based conferencing Low cost personal computers equipped with a web camera and using public internet are capable of providing VRI. There are several software applications available which vary in quality and features. How to use VRI effectively There are a couple of things to consider to make VRI work effectively e.g. the background image, speed of signing. A factsheet is available from Product Services, Department of Education and Training. Live remote captioning What is captioning? Captioning is a text representation of audio information and is usually one-way communication. There are three types of captioning: Open captions - superimposed on a television, DVD or video presentation. They do not require any additional equipment to see them. Closed captions - embedded in a television, DVD or video presentation and usually appear at the bottom of the screen. They require a closed caption decoder. Live captioning text is typed in realtime (immediately after the words have been spoken) by a stenocaptioner in the same location. Where the stenocaptioner is in a different or remote location, this is called live remote captioning. Live remote captioning uses an audio phone connection, the internet and a computer. Product Services - April 2009 Page 2 of 6

3 The following diagram shows how live remote captioning works. Live remote captioning tool and the internet RTO or workplace Remote location 1. Speaker talks into a headset using a phone connection 3. Person who is Deaf or hard of hearing reads the text on a computer The person who is Deaf or hard of hearing and the speaker are in the same location 2. Stenocaptioner listens to the speaker through a headset and types the words into a computer Who should use live remote captioning? Live remote captioning is best used for people who feel confident in reading English. It can compliment residual hearing and / or lip reading skills, or can assist Auslan users to see an English representation of technical or difficult language. There are a variety of businesses that provide live remote captioning services. These services vary in cost and features. Examples of organisations are: Bradley Reporting Red Bee Media Australia Reporters Ink. Product Services - April 2009 Page 3 of 6

4 Speech to text technology What is speech to text technology? Speech to text technology (also known as automatic speech recognition or computer speech recognition) converts spoken words to text. Specialised computer software is able to recognise words being spoken into a microphone, then display the text in realtime (immediately after the words have been spoken) on a computer screen. The following diagram shows how speech to text technology works. Speech to text software Speaker talks into the software via headset Person who is Deaf or hard of hearing reads the text on a computer Who should use speech to text technology? It is best used for people who feel confident in reading English. It can complement residual hearing and / or lip reading skills. Software applications that can be used for speech to text vary in cost and features. Some examples are: Dragon Naturally Speaking software specifically used for speech to text Microsoft speech to text found in the accessibility options of Windows or Vista TextHelp Read and Write Gold software that assists with reading and writing English and includes a speech to text feature. Product Services - April 2009 Page 4 of 6

5 Electronic text What is electronic text? Electronic text is an alternative to handwriting. For people who have good typing skills it is a quicker and more professional method of communication. A computer or digital notetaker is needed to type and view the words. Who should use electronic text? Electronic text is best used for people who feel confident in reading and writing English. It may be of benefit when an Auslan interpreter is not available. It is best used for one-on-one conversations. Electronic text can be used on a laptop computer or on equipment that is more portable. Options include: Ubi-Duo - wireless, battery-powered device with two displays / screens and two keyboards Notetakers (e.g. AlphaSmart Neo) notetaker with a full size keyboard and small screen Speak and Read hand-held device that uses speech to text software and/or typing. Assistive Listening Devices What are assistive listening devices? Assistive listening devices amplify spoken words and reduce or cut out background noise to enable better use of residual hearing. They either: work with hearing aids or cochlear implants using the telecoil amplify sound and feed it through headphones without the use of a hearing aid or cochlear implant. When are assistive listening devices used? These devices are particularly helpful in noisy environments or when the speaker is not near to or facing the recipient, making lip reading difficult. Assistive listening devices should be matched to the users needs. Options include: Frequency modulated (FM) systems transmit sound from one person to another, overcoming the effects of noise reverberation and distance. An FM system requires an amplifier (used by the speaker) and an FM receiver (used by the recipient in conjunction with a hearing aid, earphones or cochlear implant). Product Services - April 2009 Page 5 of 6

6 Induction loops sound is transmitted to a listener's hearing aid or headset by means of a magnetic field. They are suitable for churches, cinemas, auditoria and all public areas. Induction loops used with an amplifier range from 40 metres to 400 metres in perimeter. Infrared systems transmit invisible light to a receiver worn around the neck. These systems can be connected to headphones or to an induction loop for use both with and without a hearing aid. An infrared system allows more freedom of movement for the person who is Deaf or hard of hearing. It can alert the user to sound coming from a range of sources including live voices, speakers, TV, phones, doorbells or alarms. Alert Systems What is an alert system? An alert system can warn a person who is Deaf or hard of hearing of a sound (like a baby s cry) or of something that is happening. They can be portable devices and / or installed in a specific location. Alert systems use noise, vibrations or light patterns to gain the attention of the person who is Deaf or hard of hearing. Each system has a transmitter and receiver. When are alert systems used? Alert systems are used to warn people of a sound or hazard. They can include smoke detectors, baby cry alarms, door bells or alarm clocks. There are a variety of alert systems available that use vibration, visual signals (such as lights), audible signals or a combination of these: smoke detectors, alarm clocks, baby cry alarms often use a combination of signals flashing lamps with different flashing configurations depending on the nature of the alert are a common device and often used for the telephone, doorbell or baby cry alarms multi-alert systems can be customised to the user s preference. They can be hard wired into the existing electrical system, use batteries or a combination. One example is a system that uses a small receiver worn on the wrist, arm or ankle. It alerts the user through a selection of vibrations and coloured lights. Product Services - April 2009 Page 6 of 6

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