New technology to help deaf-blind people to watch television



In an age where the importance of accessibility is increasingly recognized, an innovative technology is now turning television signals into a form that deaf-blind people can understand, reports the news source Science News for Students.

The problem is clear: deaf people can make use of closed captioning to read subtitles of the words spoken on a TV program to follow along, and blind people use visual descriptions in voice-over comments to know what’s happening on the TV screen. However, these techniques are not helpful for people who are both deaf and blind.

A group of researchers led by Angel García-Crespo, a computer engineer at Carlos III University in Madrid, Spain have developed a new innovative approach enabling deaf-blind people to “watch” TV. They started by asking these people what they wanted. “We heard from them that they would like to know, without intermediaries, what is said in the TV newscasts,” García-Crespo said. They did not want to always need someone else to tell them what was going on.

The solution was to bring two technologies together to provide deaf-blind people with a robust system to enjoy television, based on the fact that touch is the key sense in this context. First, a computer program is used to extract subtitles and visual descriptions from the broadcast signal. The system then combines the information and converts it into data for braille. Second, another computer system sends the data out to people’s refreshable braille displays on demand.

This enables the user to follow in real time using their automatic braille display. “This is done in real time, in less than a second,” García-Crespo added. “This lets a deaf-blind person ‘watch’ TV as it is broadcast.”

Source: Science News for Students