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Otter.ai is one of the newest transcription apps on the market, and it’s impressing A LOT of people! Not only can the user access the transcription during live events, but it also includes features such as capturing business meeting transcripts, online transcript storage, and as-needed access of previous transcripts. The app can connect to your calendar, will provide automatic reminders to record meetings, and allows others to view and highlight the transcripts in real time. Otter.ai also offers the ability to easily separate and label different speakers in a single transcription.

 

The free version offers 600 minutes each month, and while the feature is great for quick chats and occasional meetings, the Premium version allows unlimited transcription services, making in-person and online meetings (it works with the Zoom meeting platform), conferences, lectures, and classes far more accessible to those who are deaf/hard of hearing. This is also a great accommodation tool for businesses needing to provide a reasonable way to share speech in real-time text format.

 

To learn more about Otter.ai and its creator, check out this New York Times article

Card Games

Here at MDTAP, we always like a good game and that includes the classic card game UNO!  Recently, the game’s manufacturer ‘Mattel’ has launched an adapted version of the card game that is accessible for individuals with blindness.  Mattel has partnered with our friends at the National Federation for the Blind to create a new edition of their popular UNO card game.  This new edition features embossed braille on traditional cards therefore making the game accessible for those with visual impairment and those without sight challenges. 

Close up picture of UNO packaging that has NFB logo in upper right corner.

UNO Braille also works in conjunction with Amazon Alexa or Google Home to launch UNO Braille.  The smart home device will then provide an audible tutorial how to play the game.  The tutorial is interactive, so you can ask questions as they walk you through the game directions step-by-step!  I hope that other card games begin to follow suit and create Braille editions of their products and potentially include audible guides using Google Home or Amazon Alexa, too.

Text cloud with UNO and NFB logos.

If you are visually impaired or have a visually impaired friend that reads braille this would be a nice gift so you can both play a fun card game together!  I see this being a great holiday gift as we start to approach the holiday season.

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

This week’s blog post on digital accessibility is focusing on how artificial intelligence can impact and improve digital accessibility for individuals with disabilities.  What is artificial intelligence? Artificial intelligence (AI) also known as machine intelligence is intelligence demonstrated by a machine (Poole, et al., (1998). 

Blue-lit wall of IBM Watson

(A picture of Watson by IBM).

The most readily identifiable AI on the planet is probably Watson by IBM.  A super computer that has true artificial intelligence and has been used on  a variety of tasks including ones that would not normally be able to be completed by a machine.  Watson is not only capable of AI but is constantly learning new things.   Through the power of Watson it is completed by extraordinary challenges such as beating the best chess players on the planet.

A cartoon style picture of a gentleman with a cane being assisted by a robot across the street

Artificial intelligence is already being utilized to support the sensory impaired, namely the deaf/HOH community and those in our community with blindness.  In the United Kingdom (UK), Her Majesty’s government requires that websites meet success criteria level AA of the WCAG.  The actual requirement for sign language provision is an AAA requirement based on the WCAG success criteria so it is exceptionally difficult for most websites to meet this standard.  Especially, as sign language would be needed for all multimedia and this is where artificial intelligence could be utilized to potentially view, assess and then translate the media into sign language in almost real-time to the website user with who is deaf/HOH.

An infographic on AI by Micosoft that explains how AI work with speech translation and captioning.

Currently, AI is being utilized by Microsoft in the form of a free service through the Microsoft Translator application where spoken word can be translated into a variety of languages including the provision of text (captions).  In one of my prior roles for the State of Maryland I utilized this very tool when working with members of the deaf community.  It allowed me to get my message to the individual with a hearing impairment when an interpreter was not available at that exact time.  I could speak my message and it real-time captioned my words for the consumer to review.

Finally, based on the current and growing use of AI in the world, I foresee the power of AI being a part of many future accessibility blog posts! 

 

Poole, DavidMackworth, AlanGoebel, Randy (1998). Computational Intelligence: A Logical Approach. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-510270-3.

The Escape of Gaming

This week’s blog post is focused on my favorite pastime –gaming and in particular accessible gaming.  A great article was written by the folks from the Washington Post which highlights the benefits of gaming for those with disabilities.  Here at MDTAP, we also love some gaming and we are hoping to have another accessible gaming night in 2020 after the success of our first gaming night during this past summer!

Young man in wheelchair playing video game connected to tv on wall. Black background with flowers and cat in two windows.

A beautiful illustration by Matt Saunders of the Washington Post (we do not own the rights to this image but we love Matt’s work)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2019/10/14/its-my-escape-how-video-games-help-people-cope-with-disabilities/

One very powerful platform that was highlighted in the article was streaming and how streaming video gaming seems to aid with social inclusion.  Many streamers who have massive followings on streaming platforms are in fact individuals with disabilities. 

I hope you all enjoyed this article as much as I did.  Our friends at AbleGamers were again highlighted for their fantastic work!  They do so much wonderful work locally and nationally in the support of inclusive gaming. 

Accessibility

Hey guys, this week’s blog post is a slightly different from the norm, as it will be focusing on digital accessibility versus the traditional assistive technology posts you have grown accustomed to us sharing out!  Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending the Inter-agency Accessibility Forum (IAAF) sponsored by the Federal Chief Information Officer Council (Federal CIO Council’s) Accessibility Community of Practice and hosted by the General Services Administration (GSA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) federal agencies in Washington DC.  I had the pleasure of working, collaborating and consulting with some fabulous digital accessibility and assistive technology professionals from a variety of backgrounds at this two day forum in our nation’s capital. 

Close up of blue key on keyboard with disability logo on it

During the two-day forum, I had a chance to learn about how the federal government is working diligently to make their digital footprint accessible for all.  I was particularly impressed with the energy of the speakers, presenters and the attendees.  Many of the attendees were from a variety of government agencies and they all came together for one common interest making digital content more accessible for federal employees and consumers with disabilities.

Large sign with Dept of Human Services logo in center surrounded by logos of all agencies in department

As a non-federal employee, I was welcomed by all and I truly appreciated the warm welcome I received.  Overall, it was a fantastic cooperative learning opportunity that I was afforded and I would definitely recommend that other state and municipal employees register and attend this forum, if they have capacity.  I was very impressed with their sessions on digital accessibility testing.  In particular, I loved learning more about the Accessible Name and Description Inspector (ANDI) accessibility testing tool that is the primary tool for accessibility testers within the federal government.  ANDI.  A free-to-use government accessibility testing tool that is pragmatic and has a proven track record.

Large screen with words "Annual Interagency Accessibility Forum"

In a future blog post, we will do a deeper dive into website testing tools  and in particular ; ANDI but for now it’s time to call it a day!

Thanks so much for reading!

Andrew

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How much do you know about deaf people? Whether you’re an ASL student, a teacher or coworker of a deaf person, about to hire a deaf employee, or just plain curious, it’s worth taking some time to understand what it means to be deaf and how to interact with deaf people. If only there was an easy course online somewhere. Look no further! The National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC) launches Deaf 101 today. Deaf 101 is a free online short course designed to provide basic knowledge and tools necessary to communicate effectively with deaf individuals, especially in educational and professional settings.

“Because deaf people are a low-incidence population, there’s typically a lack of knowledge among professionals about how best to work with them, said Stephanie Cawthon, PhD, Director of NDC. “Deaf 101 is about setting everyone up for success.”

The course is broken down into two modules: the first describes the spectrum of deaf identity and answers common questions about deaf people; the second provides participants with quick tips and strategies to communicate effectively with deaf people.

Are you pressed for time? You can take the course all at once or in multiple sittings; it generally takes 3 hours to complete.

The course is designed to support a wide variety of people: ASL students & teachers, teachers of deaf students, as well as professionals working with deaf coworkers in the workplace and those working with deaf students in educational settings, such as counselors, transition specialists, disability service professionals and so on.

Deaf 101 helps participants to build knowledge and skills needed to:

  • Describe different groups the term “deaf” may include
  • Compare different terms used for deaf people
  • Avoid common misconceptions about deaf people
  • Promote positive attitudes towards deaf people
  • Summarize the three federal laws that protect equal access for deaf people
  • Use accommodations and other strategies that support effective communications between deaf and hearing individuals

In addition to Deaf 101, NDC offers families and professionals a full array of resources that support those working with deaf people, designed to empower people with the tools necessary to support #DeafSuccess.

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