Raising the Floor News
It's been argued that captions and transcripts increase viewership because the searchable text makes it easy for visitors to find what they're looking for. Now a study, performed by Discovery Digital Networks on behalf of 3PlayMedia, provides some solid evidence: 13% more views in the first 2 weeks after adding text to the video.
Video relay service (VRS) allows sign language users to communicate with non-signers over a video link, using sign language interpreters in between. It's part of the telecommunications relay service in the US, and has been beset by fraud and abuse attracted by its high per-minute reimbursement rates. Now the FCC is taking action to reform VRS.
A large-scale longitudinal study in the US seems to have found a definitively positive effect of Internet use among retirees. Comparing those who did and did not use the Internet, there was a 30% drop in a key measure of depression. The researchers' explanation is that the Internet's social functions (email, social networks, etc.) offer "remediation of social isolation and loneliness", resulting in lower levels of depression.
Video streaming site Viki and Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin have kicked off a global campaign to increase captioning called the Billion Words March. The campaign aims to advocate for increased use of captioning in every language and country, on behalf of the hundreds of millions of people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or otherwise benefit from seeing a text version of the audio track.
Thotra, a new startup spun off from the University of Toronto, is preparing to release a system that processes hard-to-understand speech, such as strong accents, stuttering, and the effects of some forms of cerebral palsy. The system analyzes the stream of speech similar to how speech recognition is performed, identifies specific artifacts that make the speech hard to understand, and provides some remediation before sending the speech stream on to the listener. Thotra will be implemented on mobile devices and also in the cloud.
Software firm One Llama plans to release an app that will listen for sounds in the environment that may signal danger, such as sirens and breaking glass, then interrupt whatever is playing on the mobile device with an amplified version of that sound. This may be especially valuable to people with hearing loss, or cognitive disabilities that might otherwise restrict their ability to travel independently.
Nymi is preparing a new device that uses a person's unique 'cardiac rhythm' to generate control and authentication signals to computers, phones, kiosks, and all other compatible ICT products and services. The wristband picks up not just your heartbeat, but the entire audible pattern of your circulatory system, which is just as individual as a fingerprint. It transmits that pattern and other information, allowing you to log in and unlock whatever you want to use without having to enter a password or swipe a smartcard.
In rapid succession, the European Union and the US government have acted aggressively to advance the cause of accessible ICT. In Europe, three major standards bodies released their collaborative accessibility standard for a full range of ICT products and services: "Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe" (PDF).
The Global Initiative for Inclusive ICT (G3ict) has released another comprehensive report outlining where we are, planet-wide, in making progress towards full inclusion of people with disabilities in ICT.
Verbal, currently on Kickstarter, promises to provide voice-based access to email and the web via any phone, using speech recognition for input and speech synthesis for output. Given the billions of people worldwide who either have no computer or smartphone, or have difficulty reading text visually, this old-but-new idea may tip the balance to feasible inclusion.