Yesterday MICHA's 50th year celebration and fundraising event

Yesterday I was in the “Positive Step” fund raising event for MICHA (another link). The event was held at this time because it has been 50 years since MICHA was founded. It was held in Joshua Gardens, north Tel Aviv.

Admission fee to the event was 20NIS, which was transferred as donation to MICHA. There were lots of advertising, so I assume that companies sponsored almost everything which costs money there – including free ice cream from Nestle.

At entrance, we got free hat and a small bottle of water to drink as we walk. There were lots of white shirts and white & green balloons (blue balloons are apparently reserved to the memory of Ron Arad, MIA).

Before walking, we were treated to a dose of the inevitable “zionut” – boring political speeches. MICHA is well-connected, so the speakers included also Danny Naveh, the minister of health, and Zevulun Orlev, the minister of welfare. Near the end, also Reuma Weizmann, the wife of Ezer Weizmann, a former Israeli President, spoke. She has been member of the managing committee of MICHA for forty years and reminded us to drink a lot of water. She apologized that she will not be joining us for the walk, because they are to celebrate her husband’s 80th birthday. Erez Zino, the CEO of Ozicom Communications Ltd. and also a “graduate” of MICHA Tel Aviv, did not speak this time.

All speeches were made accessible by combination of a notetaker and Sign Language interpreter (far cry from the era during which Sign Language was taboo at MICHA).

After the speeches were over, those who had balloons were asked to release them to the air, and then we started walking.

There was a famous (although I do not know him) basketball player, who came to the event, and walked together with us. Several people utilized the opportunities to be photographed together with him.

There were Disneylandesque people with costumes of cartoon heroes. Only the heroes were from commercials, such as the Baby of Bamba and the Violet Star of Cellcom.

And, oh yes, I saw almost all workers of Ozicom Communications Ltd. there, some of them with their families.

Petah Tikva is to be more accessible to the deaf now

During the last two years, the Petah Tikva municipality has been operating the “Accessible Community” project for improving accessibility to people with all types of disabilities in the city. In the framework of this project, the municipal hotline, which is accessible by voice phone number 106, has been prepared to accept also FAX messages from people, whose disability precludes their use of regular phone.

This evening I was in a meeting, in which the manager of the hotline told us about the project. They accept for forwarding also FAX messages for the police, Magen David Adom (the Jewish/Israeli counterpart of Red Cross) and the firefighters. The FAX number is (03)9040304. We also got a form, which can be filled quickly in case of emergency for FAXing to the hotline. About fifty deaf people (1/4 of the total deaf population in Petah Tikva) participated in the meeting. The opportunity was utilized also by a representative of the Israeli Social Security, who told us about the vocational rehabilitation services provided by Social Security. The Web site of the municipality of Petah Tikva (http://www.petah-tikva.muni.il/) is not accessible to the Mozilla browser, which I used, due apparently to use of a IE specific extension at the home page. However, http://www.petah-tikva.muni.il/htmls/hebrew/moked.html gets you directly to the municipal hotline center (the page is written in Hebrew). I sent a complaint to their Webmaster, emphasizing the problem of blind people, who absolutely must use special browsers to browse Web sites.

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.

http://www.etsi.org/cce/proceedings/4_4.htm 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.