We move on in our agenda. We have a few more speakers ahead of us. Firstly I’d like to welcome the EUD president, mr. Markku Jokinen. He will be briefly describing the issues and barriers that we face in our day to day life from the EUD perspective.
Mr. Markku Jokinen:
Hello everyone. I’m very happy to be here. And to have these interesting discussions with you about technology and accessibility and how they work together. I’d like to give a bit of background of what EUD is and I will get to the point. I hope this works.
Yes. The green button.
These are the 3 points I want to get across today. What challenges face deaf sign language users. And how it persons to accessibility. And outline the EUD projects we have been working on with technologies so far in EUD.
The European Union of the Deaf is an umbrella organisation based in Brussels. We have 31 full members. 28 EU members, plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. We are a full member of the EDF. Regional co operating member of the World federation of the deaf. And special consultative status with the UN Ecosoc. We receive our funding from the Rec programme. The rights, equality and citizenship program fom the Commission.
The challenges deaf sign language users face. Firstly I want to give a bit of background. In the last 10 years I have to say technology has given so much to the deaf community. It has been a gift in terms of communication. Through Facetime, video means, messaging. It has changed the world of communication for deaf people. You can have 24 hour communication in your face all day every day. When I was growing up that was not the case. The important thing to say about the 24 hour communication is between 2 deaf people or in the deaf community. When we think about the deaf community trying to communicate with the hearing community this is where the barriers are highlighted. I want to outline why I feel this is the case still. In terms of inclusivity, it is not there. There are so many barriers with sign language users when they want to interact with the hearing world. When we see at legislation, there is very little legal recognition. Some have legal recognition. The implementation could be lacking of everyday life. Some have legal recognition. When they want to implement, the funding isn’t really there to realise the legislation.
Other issues that come up are issues of interpretation. There can be challenges for providing interpretation. Some countries are willing. Some aren’t as willing. The other thing we need to consider is sign language interpretation training is not standardized and not always sufficient in every country across the EU.
And then we consider research of signlanguages themselves across Europe. There isn’t sufficient research available or completed. When you think of resources for teaching sign language or anything in legislation linking. There is little there. It is not equivalent to spoken language training. They are not equivalent to spoken language opportunities. As I have stated, deaf people have easier better communication thanks to technology. When we have a look from the hearing perspective, looking at tv, internet and what signlanguage is there representing the deaf community, there is very little there.
Also, many people aren’t aware of what technological tools are there readily available for them.
And then this last point, just talking about corpus research. This is my sign, corpus. It is encapsulating all signs in 1 space. This really looks at sign language words, grammar. There is very little work done throughout the EU. What it means, the corpus, the material we have are quite minimal. If you want to make a translation, algorithm based on this data, going from sign language to spoken language. As the data is limited, this causes a challenge in developing an algorithm that will go into a strong sproken language. How can you develop an algorithm if you have very little to work with? This is a big challenge we face.
In the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, they do have corpus research. But all the other countries that are left who don’t. It is a challenge to consider how we can get better corpuses for the future.
I mentioned previously I would like to explain these 3 projects that EUD has been involved with. We had Signspeak. 2009-2011. The idea behind Signspeak is to have technology that would translate sign language into spoken, to text or spoken. And then that would produce a new e-service for the deaf community. So, that was the aim and concept behind it. Signspeak also, I wanted to mention in Arabic countries, they have developed a very good translation tool. They have 1.2 million Arabic words in their corpus. And this guides the translation algorithm to English.
When we compare this to sign language, there is only 3000 signs and movements in this corpus. 3000. So how can you bring that into spoken language? It is not possible. You need to have such extensive data to work on. So that’s Signspeak.
I’m hoping that that will develop and move in the future.
But at the moment with the lack of resources.
I don’t know if many of you are aware of the second project, Insign. This was an extensive and large project. The idea was deaf people, hard of hearing people who want to communicate with EU institutions could do so through sign language, through captioning. Real time text. This was the aim. That they would set up a system. They tested it. Materials were developed. It is yet to be implemented. Fingers crossed this won’t be shelved and used in the EU institutions.
The last project is Nexes. The Nextes project is still ongoing..
This is pertaining to deaf, hard of hearing, all the ranges of deafness. If there is an emergency you’d be able to contact emergency services directly. The important word is directly. At the same time you could use audio, phone. You can use video. You can use real time text. These aren’t 3 separate mediums but all combined. You’d be able to sign, use realtime text and audio at the same time. You’d be able to use all these. Location service that would be in your phone. All this data would be taken at the same time when I as a deaf citizen want to report an emergency situation I can use the emergency services. This concept is total communication. And this project is still ongoing. Hopefully the system will be implemented across all EU member states.
So. Technology we have it. It is fantastic. We use it all the time. Every day. But how we can use this to use services linking to hearing people, this is where the challenge and barrier is. I think in the future with the technology we have available this barrier will disappear. At the moment it is still there. Thank you. That is my conclusion. Thank you very much. (applause)
Mark: Thank you, thank you Markku. 1.30 minute over.
Maybe one of the other presentations will have better examples of being on time? Thank you very much for your presentation, Markku. We now have the EUD perspective finished.