WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

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Re: Reality Check (was RE: accessibility for deaf)


From: Paul R. Bohman
Date: Apr 23, 2006 10:10AM

On 4/23/06, John Foliot - WATS.ca < <EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:
> 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 -

You're right that implementations of sign language by web developers
on their sites would be burdensome, impractical, and most likely
ineffective. However, on a theoretical level, a text-to-sign-language
"screen reader" could potentially be of some benefit to deaf users,
assuming that users buy/install the program on their end (or use it as
a web service). As such, the software would be an assistive technology
rather than a web design technique.

I do know that there are such programs--I've seen them demonstrated at
conferences and such--but as has been mentioned, their effectiveness
on a practical level will always be limited by the fact that the
process is a true translation from one language into another (e.g.
American English into American Sign Language or British English into
British Sign Language, etc.) and not just a transfer from one medium
(e.g. text) into another (e.g. sound, in the case of JAWS, Window
Eyes, etc.).

I suppose you could more easily translate from written text into
something like Signed English, but this is not the same thing as
full-blown sign languages such as American Sign Language or British
Sign Language.

Still, on a theoretical and experimental level, I see no problem with
the idea of having a text-to-sign-language "screen reader". If someone
can get it to work effectively (which is dependent on the success of
technologies for making any kind of automated language translations
effective), it could be a great asset for people whose first language
or preferred language is sign language.

Paul R. Bohman
Technology Coordinator
Kellar Institute for Human disAbilities
George Mason University