Remote speech-to-text and sign language interpretation
- VerbaVoice GmbH
- Country of Implementation
- Western Europe
- First published
“Our vision right from the start: 100 percent accessible education, information, and knowledge for hearing impaired people.” Ms. Ulrike Waltsgott, Head of Communications, VerbaVoice
Real inclusion of hearing impaired pupils in regular school systems in Germany and other countries is still facing difficulties in terms of high costs and the availability/flexibility of sign language interpreters and qualified speech-to-text reporters. In the past, hearing impaired people have often been excluded from higher education and were thus primarily restricted to manual and technical professions that require less communication support. The local availability of sign language interpreters and speech-to-text reporter still imposes strong financial pressure on public funding institutions, which often have to pay for their travel costs in addition to their actual working hours.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
VerbaVoice offers a custom-built, completely accessible online conferencing system that is browser- based, accessible for blind people using screen readers, and tailor-made to suit the needs of deaf and hard of hearing users. A specific app is available on mobile devices for iOS and android to display spoken content through live text and video on mobile devices. A dedicated cloud-based online booking and administration system (Adobe Life-Cycle) facilitates access to the services. The text transmission system VerbaVoice Live Text features optimized text flow and one-by-one transmission of characters, as well as the VerbaVoice Live Editor – a tool used for permanent live text correction by several speech-to-text reporters at the same time.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
The cloud-based system can be easily transferred to other countries or contexts: It is software- and language-independent, easy to handle for the end user, and works for any language combination. The costs consist of the local rates for interpreters and speech-to-text reporters (about 75 Euro per hour for Germany) and a moderate platform fee. In addition, a licensing model could be an option if the system is to be introduced to a new market on a larger scale. Remote interpreting thus provides a cost-effective method to be used on a large scale.
THE STORY OF HEIKE ALBRECHT
“Using my tablet, I can follow each lecture by reading the live text.”
On the tennis court, I know what to do. I focus on the ball, the ground underneath my feet, the movement of my hand, and the rush of the game. I always knew what I wanted – to play tennis – and so I did. There are always obstacles to face, of course: injuries and challenges, matches that can’t be won. But it’s up to me. It is my game. A lecture hall, however, is a completely different thing. I depend on other people giving me the information I need to succeed, depend on them to speak clearly and to look at me while talking. I depend on the fact that people understand what it means to be hard of hearing. When I finished secondary school, I was at a loss. Should I try attending university? Did I want to face this challenge? Would I make it? To follow lectures all day, in a big room with bad acoustics, too far away to lip-read? And how about all the loanwords and unknown expressions? How about the stories I knew about people dropping out of university, giving up their education and settling for the easier way just because they couldn’t perceive what was said and were tired of depending on the help of their fellow students? For hearing impaired people it is not just tiring but sometimes literally impossible to go to university without any assistance. Then I heard a presentation about speech-to-text reporters who type every word the professor says. I sat in a small room and listened to the idea of the VerbaVoice online platform and learned about speech-to-text reporters and sign language interpreters who work remotely. That’s when I decided to give it a try! I am now in my fifth semester at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich. Using my tablet I can follow each lecture by reading the live text – and I just need to scroll back if I missed something. This mobile solution makes me feel independent: I am flexible and the interpreter is not sitting next to me, but instead is somewhere else in Germany or even at the other end of the world! I am just like any other student using a computer or mobile device, and people hardly notice. Playing tennis is still my greatest passion. But when I started university, I knew that I could follow all kinds of dreams – sports, education, and a career.