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Reality Check (was RE: accessibility for deaf)


From: John Foliot - WATS.ca
Date: Apr 23, 2006 8:10AM

Christian Heilmann wrote:
> Is there an assistive software that could translate text into sign
> language? While that could only have the grace and usefulness of
> babelfish (as language translation is a human thing and just cannot
> be automated) it could be helpful.


Sign "language" is just that, a language - a form of immediate direct
communication between two people similar to non-deaf speaking. While
there exists TTF fonts that can provide "spell-out" signing, the
variations being discussed in this thread (American Sign Language,
British Sign Language, French and Quebecois Sign Language) exist because
there are "short-form" signs that represent concepts (words), rather
than having each word spelled out letter-by-letter.

I am not completely clear here on how this discussion could be relevant
on a web site:

1) Declare a "signing" font in your CSS (?) - this won't work as it
implies the end user has that particular font installed - a real
stretch. (BTW, I *do* have a TTF file of ASL "letters" - contact me off
list if you want a copy - I have a Braille TTF as well)

2) Post images of hand signing to spell out your text? (What happens
when images are not supported?)

3) Similar to Television transmition that provides signed translation
(often seen with political speeches for example) - an embedded <object>
(media stream) that provides simultaneous signed translation? (what
happens if the system does not support the media stream?)

Step back folks... Attempting to provide any form of sign language on
your web site will probably be less than fruitful 99.999 % of the time -
it's overkill of the magnitude akin to <table summary="This table is
used to lay out the page"> and/or <a href="" title="Link to the foobar">
(declaring a self evident link is pointless IMHO).

In any given territory, deaf users that are functioning in their
particular society have already developed coping mechanisms to deal with
the printed form - their level of reading comprehension may not be at
the highest level (thus WCAG #14.1 "Use the clearest and simplest
language appropriate for a site's content") however we don't see product
packaging in sign language, nor newspapers, magazines, junk mail or any
other form of written communication - why should the web be different?

Just my Canadian $0.02...

Web Accessibility Specialist
WATS.ca - Web Accessibility Testing and Services
Phone: 1-613-482-7053