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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Making Online Education Accessible to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing - part 3

A third way that online education can be made accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing is through the use of speech recognition software by professors. Using this, lectures are automatically transcribed and displayed for all the students in the class to see. No more need for requesting a captioner. No more need for borrowing a classmate's notes.
The Liberated Learning consortium is a group of universities in North America, Asia, Europe, and Australasia incorporating this assistive technology into their courses. As defined on their website, the Liberated Learning concept is founded on two interrelated applications:
  • using speech recognition technology to automatically transcribe spoken language and display it as readable text

  • using speech recognition to produce accessible, multimedia notes

The project began 2 decades ago at the Atlantic Centre of Research, Access, and Support for Students with Disabilities at St. Mary's University of Halifax. Three professors worked with voice recognition software for a semester and then introduced it into their classrooms where their students for the first time could see a lecture as it was delivered. [To find out more of the history of the Liberated Learning Project click here.]

Today the 18 international partners of the Liberated Learning Consortium are working with the IBM ViaScribe through a Joint Study Agreement between St. Mary's and IBM.

That's great news for traditional students. But how can this work for distance learners?

The Neil Squire Society of Canada is working with the Liberated Learning Consortium to find a way to make this transcription tool compatible with Wimba. A nonprofit organization, the Neil Squire Society is dedicated to using technology, knowledge, and passion to help Canadians with physical disabilities. I learned about this approach to making online education accessible from Chad Leaman, a reader who left a comment about his work for them. Chad sent me a demo of his Wimba bridge - a connection between the transcription software and Wimba's closed captioning. I enjoyed listening to it and seeing what the transcription looked like. There were some funny results like Wimba being written as "when but" and liberal as "liver". Tee hee. It reminded me of my own hearing mistakes. But truly I was impressed that there are people with the necessary technical skills working on these accessiblity solutions.
I also really liked this motto I found on the Neil Squire Society website - "Social Justice : We facilitate major change by example and by modelling an effective approach."

Next time, I'll wrap up this series of posts with information on universal design of instruction.


Anonymous said...

I'd like you to feature the online courses as offered by Gallaudet University; there have been several articles published about their courses. Their courses are captioned, presented in ASL, and accessible to all, deaf or hearing.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

That's a good idea! Thanks for sharing your comment.

billcreswell said...

I think that our church is going to try the speech recognition for getting some captioning going.

I can't wait to see if professional software does better - my own experiences found that it was faster and easier to type, even though I am a slow typer.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Bill,
That's interesting. I'm glad your church is making the services accessible. That's another topic I'd like to write about soon.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Re: Anonymous,
I did some research today at the Library and couldn't find the articles you mentioned. I checked Google and all of the educational journal databases we subscribe to. I also looked on Gallaudet's website. Can you (or anyone else reading this) send me some links or citations to the articles?

Amy Kay said...

Wow, how wonderful it would be not to miss a single word spoken in class. How fantabulus professional software is!

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Amy Kay,
And how wonderful the people who develop it! Now we have to get the word out and get universities and colleges to implement this software.
Deaf and hard of hearing people have so much to contribute to society. I've learned so much reading the blogs and watching the vlogs.
I want to see online education made as accessible as possible. Everyone will benefit.
Thanks for your comment.

kym said...

A wonderful thing not to miss a word in class. This would be to good to pass up, for colleges.

Hopefully, this is something we will see implemented...sooner than later.


Taylorstales-Genealogy said...

Once again you have written an engaging and very informative post. A great deal of people will appreciate all of your hard work and dedication to this subject matter. You are certainly on a mission for promoting technology to enhance the educational and personal experience for all people with disabilities. You've caught the "technology bug." You're on a new mission in life, you go girlfriend! Your friend and buddy!

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Kym,
Exactly. We have to push the benefit to students so colleges will get on board with this. With the ability to have lecture notes created automatically all students will benefit.
Thanks for your comment.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thanks, taylorstales.
Your comment and encouragement mean a lot to me.

When people are doing things to improve the lives of those with disabilities it is definitely worth speaking up about. I'm fortunate to have this blog as a platform to highlight new advances I learn about as I raise my own awareness about coping with hearing loss.

Chad said...

Hey Sarah,
A dozen comments on a blog post? That makes you an inter-web celebrity.
This is a great series you've done on UD.
FYI, your blog post has been linked on the Liberated Learning website.

Chris Simpson said...

Wow this is incredible. I am for anything that educated more of our society. I think that it's something everyone should be entitled to and really encouraged to get. It's awesome to see how much work people are putting in for people who need it. Inspiring.