Impact of New Telecommunication Technologies on the Deaf
Work paper about the implications of usage of new telecommunication technologies upon the hearing impaired population in IsraelWritten by:
Association of the Deaf in Israel
13 Yad Lebanim Ave.
61 090 Tel Aviv
Written at: 1993 Aug 22
Bezeq [the Israeli phone company] and various private companies are involved in introduction of various new telecommunication technologies into Israel. The new technologies hold promise for dramatic improvement in the ability of the hearing impaired in Israel to communicate with other people, extract information from various databases and get information from mass communication media.
However, along with the promise, there is also the risk that due to lack of foresight when planning the deployment of the new technologies, provisions for making them accessible to the hearing impaired will not be implemented, thus keeping the hearing impaired in disadvantaged position. Example - the voice information services, which are accessible via the 056 prefix [corresponding to the 900 numbers in USA]. With a small change (to be explained below), they could have been accessible to the hearing impaired. Another example - the videophone: in order to enable a conversation in sign language, the required picture quality must be better than needed for other applications (see ref. 2, pg. 49).
This work paper reviews the telecommunication technologies, of which the author is aware. The author hopes that the contents of this work paper reach those people who design and decide about the form of new telecommunication technologies in Israel, and will help them make decisions with awareness of the specific needs of the hearing impaired in Israel.
The author wishes to acknowledge the help he got from Mrs. Hava Savir and Dr. Daniella Gabizon. They reviewed a draft version of this paper and their criticism of it was helpful in improving the final version.
The incidence of hearing impairment among people of a particular age group increases as those people get older. At age 2-3, the incidence of deafness is about 1.3 promil (see ref. 3), and the incidence of people suffering from any hearing problem is about 5 promil. At age 7, the incidence of people suffering from any hearing problem is already 13 promil (see ref. 4). The incidence of sufferers from problems in speech and language development (due to several reasons, not limited to hearing impairment) at age 7 is 22 promil.
According to a demographic survey, it is estimated that about 1.1 promil of the general population got deafened at age less than 19 (see ref. 1, pg. 20). Among those people, about 60% have good mastery of sign language.
At age 65 and above, the incidence of people with hearing impairment is very high. Until end of writing this work paper, I got no precise data, but I'll say that one third of the elderly suffer from severe hearing impairment. Due to the general increase of percentage of the elderly among the general population, it is expected that there will be increase in percentage of those which suffer from severe hearing impairment among the general pouplation. Those persons have needs which differ from those of who got deafened at youth, since they don't master sign language and are not expected to be able to master it at old age. Besides that, they'll find it difficult to master new telecommunications equipment, unless it is designed to be user friendly.
In practice, the videophones, which were demonstrated by Bezeq at April 1993, are not suitable for use by the hearing impaired due to the following reasons:
In Norway, some experiments with improved videophones were conducted (see ref. 2). Those videophones use advanced data compression techniques to enable picture transmission via a data communication channel, which operates at rate of 64Kbps (ISDN type B channel). However, the picture quality is worse than that of a standard TV set. In an experiment made with adult persons, used to working with TDDs, it was found that the adult persons prefer TDDs to videophones.
The conclusion is that when ISDN service is introduced into Israel, the infrastructure must make it possible to supply to any private person, and at reasonable cost, service which provides wider bandwidth than that supplied by the base rate service (2B+D). In addition, videophones, which provide good quality pictures, must be developed and made available to the interested, even if they require more than two B channels.
For more information about the ISDN technology, you may want to consult the following Internet resources:
It is recommended to work with international standards organizations to define an extension to the facsimile communication standards to enable bidirectional communications, one way or the other. In addition, lobbying is needed to exempt facsimiles from any taxes when they are sold to either hearing impaired or to hearing people, who are going to use them to keep in touch with hearing impaired relatives or friends.
In this method, two home or personal computers are used; and a modem is connected to each computer. Using this method, the sides to the conversation each type text on his computer instead of speaking. The computer transmits the typed text via the modem to the other computer.
Each computer displays on its display the text, which was typed on that computer, along with the text arriving from the other computer via the modem. There are telecommunication programs, which display split screen, which allows separation between text typed on the same computer and text, which arrived from the other computer.
The required hardware for this method is cheaper than the facsimile and allows bidirectional communication. However, this method didn't enjoy the popularity of the facsimile due to the following reasons:
[Another factor is that Israeli schools do not teach touch typing, in contrast to American schools. So the percentage of population with touch typing skills is lower in Israel than in USA.]
In USA, the main telecommunications means of deaf persons is the TDD, since hardware, which can be used as TDD, was available for free (surplus equipment of AT&T in the sixties) and later at cost much lower than that of a facsimile.
It would be a good idea to consider the possibility of using the DOV (Data Over Voice) technology, which allows simultaneous transfer of speech and data over the same phone line. In ISDN, this can be implemented without special arrangements. Such a technology would reduce the time and effort of communications between hearing person and deaf person who has good voice. The communication mode in such a case is that the hearing person will type whatever he has to say, and the deaf person will use his voice.
Since the accessibility of the hearing impaired to the regular mass communication media (radio, TV, word of mouth gossip network) is limited, it is anticipated that the hearing impaired will make use of the computerized information systems to compensate for the above lack. For this purpose, it is necessary to construct databases, which contain news from the radio and the TV; scripts of talk/interview programs from the radio and the TV (including all of its channels and this means also cable TV); explanations of terms used in the news programs, which are not familiar to hearing impaired persons who suffer also from environmental retardedness; background material about political parties, leaders, organizations etc., who are mentioned in the news.
It is to be noted that such computerized information systems will help also immigrants to Israel to get acquainted with the Israeli culture and thus help in their absorption. [Israel is an immigrant country, and during the last few years its population increased by 10% due to a wave of immigrants from the former USSR, Ethiopia and some other countries.] Therefore it is recommended that such information systems be designed to be able to deliver information in several languages, according to user's choice.
Another point to be taken into account is the design of the terminal to be used for accessing those computerized information systems. Such a terminal will probably contain a modem, a display and a keyboard. Therefore, it is possible to use it also as a TDD (see above). Thus, care must be taken so that the hearing impaired will be able to use those terminals, which will be distributed among the general population, as TDDs with no hardware changes and almost no change in the standard operating method of the terminal. I elaborated upon this point in a separate memo (see ref. 5 [enclosed as Appendix A]).
Therefore, to reduce the gap between the hearing impaired and the hearing, it is necessary to adopt the most liberal policy possible when deciding who is permitted to use E-mail, with whom is he permitted to correspond, and what subjects is he permitted to discuss in his E-mail messages (commercial or not commercial). In short - it must be possible to use E-mail for any purpose, for which it is permissible to use the phone.
This liberal policy must be adopted for all users, and not only the hearing impaired ones, because the hearing impaired need to be able to easily establish contact with other people, regardless of whether they are hearing or hearing impaired.
There are PC plug in cards which receive Teletext signals and allow the computer to "listen" to one of the channels and accumulate hundreds of Teletext pages; and then allow the user to access information of interest from the stored Teletext pages.
Another use for Teletext is to provide captioning to programs in additional languages [in Israel, all foreign language programs are open captioned in Hebrew, except for programs for preschool children, which are dubbed]. For example, it is possible, in addition to Hebrew captions, to supply captions in English, Russian (depends upon installation of Teletext decoder with Cryllic characters), etc.; and whomever is watching the program will select the desired language by specifying the desired Teletext page number.
Since there is, at any case, a computer which provides the service, it is recommended to require, by law or by regulation, that it'll be possible to access those voice response systems by means of modem and get the requested information via the modem. The computer shall be required to automatically recognize whether the user called by a Touch Tone(R) phone or by means of modem, and provide the information appropriately. This addition is not expected to increase significantly the cost of the service, because it is sufficient to use a cheap and slow modem (300 BPS is enough to provide information at speech rate). This requirement corresponds to the requirement to add ramps to public buildings in order to make them accessible to people who use wheel chairs.
In order to facilitate the identification of a calling modem, it is possible to require the caller to start his modem in Answer mode, rather than the usual Originate mode (in Hayes compatible modems, this can be accomplished by adding the letter R at end of the phone number dialled by the ATD command). The difference is that in Answer mode, the modem immediately emits carrier tone, without waiting for carrier tone from the modem at the other side of the phone line.
In the future, when the optical character recognition (OCR) technology will be sufficiently reliable, it will be possible to add another way to request information - by sending a FAX message to the appropriate service and getting the information by a FAX message from the information service. The procedure of doing so could be as follows:
It is not recommended to require the information service systems to add this way of information delivery, because sometimes the process of getting information requires more than one round of dialogue between the user and the information providing computer.
The required improvement to alphanumeric paging service is that the message centers of the paging operating companies make it possible to leave messages by modem (or even by FAX) to let also hearing impaired persons leave messages to their friends (hearing impaired or others).
In addition, it is desirable to introduce a pager, which voices incoming messages, to help the sight impaired and blind people, who want to receive alphanumeric messages but cannot read them in a regular alphanumeric pager.
To help those who cannot hear or speak, and for those who can't justify the high cost of cellular phones [in Israel], it is recommended to introduce a system which will allow each subscriber to possess a transmitter/receiver which can transmit and receive messages using packet switching technology. Such a system will operate in manner similar to that of wireless local area network (LAN), but at lower data transfer rates and to longer ranges. The infrastructure cost of such a system would be lower, because less frequencies will be needed to serve a given number of subscribers.
Siuch a system can serve also hearing persons who don't need the full capabilities of cellular phones, thereby freeing frequencies for the use of those who really need cellular phones.
If it is not desired to deploy another telecommunications network, and the costs can be borne, it is possible to use facsimiles connected to cellular phones.
The beneficial way is to integrate a speech recognition system into the phone contact between hearing person with good voice and deaf person. The deaf person will get the information in form of text, and the hearing person will hear the deaf person's speech (or speech synthesized from text typed in by the deaf person). [This scheme is really automated relay service. In Israel, there are no relay services, and the concept is relatively unfamiliar.]
The problematic way is to use speech recognition as a replacement to the tones of TouchTone(R) telephones, modem or FAX in services, which desire to allow the calling person to give commands to a database or to a 056-type [900-type in USA] service. In order to avoid such situations, it is recommended to require, by law and/or regulations, that the capability of contacting those services by means of modem be implemented; and that the service be required to be able to automatically discriminate among voice call and modem call.
As Sela and Rimor mentioned (see ref. 6), there is a problem of using emergency dispatch centers by deaf persons, who have the medical need for such centers. [Example - centers which cater to people who have high risk of heart attack.]
Any proposed solution must take into account the following:
Therefore several versions of emergency switches must be developed. For someone whose abilities are poor in all the above areas, the emergency switch will be a simple switch, which when pressed will summon someone who will come and see what are the circumstances and summon the appropriate help team accordingly. In less problematic cases, it is possible to use an emergency switch witn few buttons, such that each button will transmit a different message to the emergency dispatch center.
For someone who can speak or type a message, arrangements are needed so that the user will be able to use telecommunication equipment, described in previous sections, to report his condition and so let the emergency dispatch center summon the appropriate help. Sight difficulties can be overcome by using display with large characters. Illiteracy can be overcome by displaying icons on the display and careful design of the communication procedure to be used.
Written at: 1992 Dec 23
[Tikshofon is the name given to a project, which was contemplated and announced, but later abandoned, to distribute terminals for accessing databases among the general population. The concept is similar to that of the French Minitel. Efforts are underway to develop and provide a similar service, but under other trade names.]
Therefore, it is desirable that the display of the Tikshofon will include the capability of clearly indicating to whom belongs each typed phrase (e.g. by means of split screen or color coding). In addition, if the communications standard is based upon modems with Originate and Answer modes, the Tikshofons must be able to automatically negotiate and choose which one will work in Originate mode, and which - in Answer mode. In addition, the users must be provided with ability to force a certain choice (in order to overcome phone line problems).
The telecommunications standard used by Israeli TDDs was defined (by the author of this work paper) and no technical problem is expected to prevent Tikshofons from supporting this standard. A summary of the standard appears in the appendix [appendix of APPENDIX A].
One of the possibilities is to design the Tikshofon so that it'll be able to work also with plug-in cards of personal computers, which are widely used. This way, it'll be possible to use plug-in cards developed for personal computers also in the Tikshofon.
APPENDIX [of APPENDIX A]: Summary of the TDD standard in use in Israel
Last update date:
2005 Nov 23
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