Requirements for deaf and hard of hearing people on mobile networks

There are several aspects which need to be taken care of in order to maintain compatibility between 3G cellular networks and equipment used by deaf people for telecommunications. discusses several of those aspects.

Now, can someone invent a way to levitate a 3G cellular phone before a deaf user, so that the deaf user can communicate using Sign Language and have the cellular phone transmit his message via video? Otherwise, one-handed Sign Language dialect may have to be invented for each Sign Language in use.

Several years ago I wrote a report – Impact of New Telecommunication Technologies on the Deaf – which was based upon projections of future technological developments. It is interesting to review the report from today’s perspective and marvel at how much reality differs from forecasts.

  • Videophone capability is now available everywhere there is fast Internet.
  • FAX machines in Israel now are reasonably priced, and deaf people, who buy them, get tax rebates.
  • I personally have been involved in Hebrew localization of the Nokia 9110 and 9210i cellular FAXes in Ozicom Communications Ltd.
  • “Computerized information systems” are now very popular under the names “Internet”, “WWW”.
  • When the report was written, access to the Internet in Israel was allowed only to academic institutions and Hi-Tech companies, due to the monopoly of Bezeq on all forms of electronic communications. Liberalization happened at 1994, few months after the report was written. All forms of electronic communications still flowed through Bezeq’s veins at least part of the way.
  • 056 services were moved to other prefixes, as the 05* prefixes were assigned to cellular phone companies. They are a niche market, mostly for “adult activities”.
  • Computerized speech recognition is not here yet, at least for Hebrew.
  • The technology to contact emergency dispatch centers exists, but it needs to be properly deployed.

The HELP 2004 Exhibition

Today I visited the HELP 2004 Exhibition in the Exhibition Grounds at northern part of Tel Aviv.
This is an exhibition of equipment, accessories, means and methods for the population of people with disabilities in Israel.

It was a small exhibition, occupying only one building in the Exhibition Grounds.
This exhibition started yesterday and will end tomorrow.

Overwhelmingly majority of the booths exhibited equipment which helps wheel chair bound people. Elevators, equipment which allows them to drive cars or to use cars at all, new kinds of wheelchairs, walkers, etc. The needs of the hard-of-hearing were represented mostly by booths of audiological clinics and hearing aid dispensers. I don’t recall seeing booths with equipment which serves the needs of blind or hard sighted people.

The hall was indeed full with people on wheelchairs. There was also respectable representation of people with hearing impairments, even though today was not Hearing Day (which was held yesterday, in parallel to the exhibition). Usually when I go to exhibitions or such places, I meet zero or one people whom I know from other place. This time, I met no less than two people whom I know from other places, not to mention people who manned (or rather, womanned) the booth of Bekol.

My personal goal was to find people, who develop new kinds of assistive equipment, and need help with the software part of their inventions. I located no such people, but I got hold of up-to-date contact information for M.I.L.B.A.T., the Israeli center for technology and accessibility. This center employs the services of volunteer professionals, who design custom adaptations for the needs of people with disabilities. I was in contact with the center several years ago, but somehow lost contact with them.