InterService Group on Disability
Preparatory document for the 23/11/2004 Meeting:
VOICE Project’s results and future challenges
Information technology may help in the development of hardware or software aids for people with special needs, due to a physical or sensorial disability. Not only is the potential market large, but, by paying attention to special requirements, it is also possible to improve the quality of the products for all users. Nevertheless, problems still exist for developing new assistive devices and for converting good prototypes into commercial products.
The role of research in this field is particularly important: it should be intended not only as development of new tools, but also as innovative applications of existing tools, in a design for all approach.
The first meetings of the InterService Group on Disability started approximately in 1996, the same period in which started the VOICE Project too. The latter represented in some way a reference and contact point in exchanging information between colleagues in Brussels and Ispra in the field of disability.
In the meetings, the representative of JRC-IPSC provided the Group’s members with information on the VOICE Project’s activities and contributed to the redaction of several official documents, with suggestions on the technological aspects, in particular for instance inserting a paragraph on media and television broadcasts’ subtitling and image description in the Council Decision on the European Year of People with Disabilities 2003.
He also draw the attention of Group’s members on the importance of spreading information on the Group’s activities. He proposed to consider the possibility of using the VOICE Forum and other VOICE Project’s Internet tools for the specific needs of the ISGD and loaded a few Web pages of test.
The VOICE Project:
The VOICE Project is investigating the use of voice recognition systems in conversation, conferences, television broadcasts and telephone calls. It encourages the test on the floor of the prototype interfaces that it developed for an easier use of commercial products in translating the spoken voice into PC screen messages and subtitles. This is a powerful help for people with hearing impairment, reducing the gap between them and the hearing world.
Moreover, in this Enlargement period, subtitling may be of considerable help in overcoming linguistic barriers for all – hearing impaired or normally hearing – users
1996-1997: JRC Exploratory Research, research on voice recognition applications;
1998-2000: the VOICE Project, funded by DG-INFSO, development of a live subtitling prototype and organisation of workshops and Web Site;
1999-2001: in collaboration with DG-EDU, activities for the NETDAYS, MOISE and NEMO projects;
2001-2003: with support of DG-ENTR, television subtitling harmonisation, in collaboration with the European Broadcasting Union and the CENELEC Normalisation Committee;
2003: spreading of results, organisation of the European Year closing conference eAccessibility by voice, with the participation of several television broadcasters;
2004: continuing spreading of results, enlarging the field to other applications and other disabilities areas.
Meetings in London with BBC and RNID, and in Prague with Czech television;
RAI starting of subtitling tests based on voice recognition;
Workshops in Plzen on Youth, Arts and Sport and in Berlin on Languages and the Media;
Workshops in Turin on projectors for cinema subtitling and in Como on theatre;
Ispra JRC School Schuman Day and Gallarate Lions Club workshops;
Lessons and tests on voice precognition at Trieste and Turin Universities.
Presentation at the Ability Conference/Exhibition in Turin;
Collaboration in preparing the conferences Youth overcoming barriers (Paraolympic) in Turin and Opera theatre and subtitling in Forlì;
Organisation of a conference on Television subtitling harmonisation at Ispra or of specific sections in the following:
Presentations to the conferences Deaf and Hearing Impaired Children, Europe 2005 in London, the 20th ICED International Congress on the Education of the Deaf in Maastricht and the EFHOH Annual General Meeting in The Hague;
Decalogue on deafness.
The basic idea is that of a large cross-table on different disabilities, different actors, different technical aids and different aspects of safety and security: JRC is concentrating on a few cells to demonstrate that research is fundamental in order to improve the quality of life of all people.
So far, the VOICE Project has covered the cell of voice recognition for people with hearing impairment, and more generally of information technology aids for people with disability and of television subtitling for overcoming languages barriers for all users.
A new proposed project will cover a few other cells and demonstrate the possibility of transferring the experiences acquired in the field of electronic identification towards other users and needs.
The objective of this inter-Units proposal is the development of an integrated system, based on the use of transponders, to increase mobility of people and their personal safety and security, by identifying a secure path to walk through selected areas, particularly for people with visual or other disability: giving real time information on their position and the surrounding environment, increasing their personal safety in case of accident or calamities through location of their position, enhancing security for emergency situations, extending the experience to other scenarios, as access of firemen to public buildings, or driving in the fog.
The Web Site and Discussion Forum:
The VOICE Project is continuing spreading the Project’s results, encouraging the tests of the system, extending the application field to other technical means and considering also other difficulties in communication, security and safety, encountered by elderly, disabled or disadvantaged people.
In this sense, it represents a reference point in contacts among the JRC colleagues, between them and the other DGs’ colleagues via the ISGD, as well as with a significant number of European Associations of people with disabilities.
One of the Project’s aim is that of uniting, by means of an Internet VOICE Forum, Associations, companies, universities, schools, public administrations and anyone else interested in information technologies applications for people with special needs. Since it is proposed as a dynamic tool of exchanging information, several pages are loaded at a draft stage, in order to allow active discussion via the Web.
Nowadays, this may appear as rather simple, but it was an innovative aspect when the Project started and still remains innovative for several Associations of people with disabilities and some schools.
Following the ISGD secretariat request, I prepared my contribution for the present meeting, even if my portable pc’s battery did not work any more in Prague and the keyboard in Czech language had limits in accents and special characters. Finally, I was among the thousands of travelers victims of Volareweb crisis and came back by train.
While I could hide these problems, I prefer to emphasise them in order to show one of the aspects of the Project, that of spreading information received by the users and supporting the feeling of being part of a group, via the Web.
Actually, I succeeded updating the Web Site loading the new documents that I received by the different partners, either in Prague or from Italy, so that they could continue the discussion from different locations; and communicate this information to the EC colleagues for the ISGD meeting.
JRC-IPSC is starting new activities, aiming at transferring the experience acquired in the past years into new projects related to the elderly, disabled or disadvantaged people, on the aspects of privacy, safety and security.
The VOICE Project and the other projects related to it try to cover an as large as possible application area, partners and final users, in view of concentrating on those requiring more specific activities.
JRC-IPSC remains at the disposal of the other DGs for developing research on the fields on which they will suggest and support co-operation.
Reference Web Pages:
VOICE Project’s welcome page (Link: http://www.voiceproject.eu/home.htm)
VOICE Project’s home page (Link inglese: http://www.voiceproject.eu/_voice_en.htm)
VOICE Project’s objectives (Link inglese: http://www.voiceproject.eu/projects/_projects_en.htm)
VOICE Discussion Forum
Television Subtitling Harmonisation (Link inglese: http://www.voiceproject.eu/media/tv/_tv_en.htm)
VOICE Project’s events (Link inglese: http://www.voiceproject.eu/events/_events_en.htm)
Conference eAccessibility by voice
Conference’s final document (Link inglese: http://www.voiceproject.eu/events/ev2003/eaccessibility/final_en.htm)
Languages and the media, Theatre subtitling (Link inglese: http://www.voiceproject.eu/events/ev2004/media_it.htm)
SESAMONET proposal for secure path for the blind
MOISE Project (Link italiano: http://www.voiceproject.eu/moise/home.htm)
NETDAYS Project (Link inglese: http://www.voiceproject.eu/projects/explor/explor98v/netdays98v/_netdays98v_en.htm)
Universities and thesis (Link italiano: http://www.voiceproject.eu/educ/univ/thesis/_thesis_it.htm)
Youth, Arts and Sport (Link inglese: http://www.voiceproject.eu/events/ev2004/opim/_opim_en.htm)
Youth and Sport, Paraolympics (Link inglese: http://www.voiceproject.eu/events/ev2005/aviph/_aviph_en.htm)
Deafness, research and social integration (Link inglese: http://www.voiceproject.eu/educ/sport/integration_en.htm)