Software Translates Sign Language Into Text
Software developed for Microsoft's Kinect—a motion-sensing input device for the Xbox 360 video game console and Windows computers—successfully translates American Sign Language into text. Researchers from Microsoft Asia and the Institute of Computing Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences developed the system and demonstrated it at the 2013 Faculty Summit, an annual Microsoft conference that promotes information technology sharing in the academic community.
Although a computer system that recognizes and translates
hand gestures to text might seem unnecessary—people who are deaf or hard of
hearing can simply type words and sentences using a keyboard and read those
typed to them—it allows ASL-users to communicate in their native language using
a computer. To date, similar efforts have been less than successful—some
require the user to wear gloves, others rely on simple web cams—and have not
proven to be practical.
The system operates in two modes. The translation mode
translates physical hand or body movements into text or speech. The
communication mode allows a person using ASL to communicate with someone else
who is communicating in typed English. Using an avatar, the system translates
incoming text from someone typing on a keyboard, then converts the ASL user's response to text and sends it back to the other person. The system is capable of translating sentences, not just words.
Communication Aids and Systems Clinic Wins McLean Yoder Award
The Communication Aids and Systems Clinic of the University
of Wisconsin–Madison received the 2013 McLean-Yoder Award for Professional
Excellence from the National Joint Committee for the Communicative Needs of
Persons With Severe Disabilities.
The award was named for David Yoder and James McLean,
preeminent research scientists in the areas of communication and intellectual
impairment. The award was established to honor an individual or team that
exemplifies high-quality professional service to individuals with severe
disabilities. Nominations were solicited from throughout the United States and
judged according to the NJC's published quality indicators specific to communication assessment, goal setting and program implementation.
Billy Ogletree, NJC chair, said the clinic's "tireless attempts to find funding for prescribed alternative and augmentative communication equipment and services reflect a never-say-die attitude necessary in today's world. This team clearly targets what is best for individuals with significant communication needs."
The NJC encourages nominations of innovative providers and
teams. Nominations are open year round on the our website.
FCC Tightens Standards for Speech-to-Speech Relay Service
People with a speech disability who use telephone relay
services will be able to do so more easily because of improved provider standards issued by the Federal Communications Commission in June.
Speech-to-speech uses specially trained operators to relay a
conversation between the individual with a speech disability—who uses his or
her own assistive voice device—and a second party. Operators are trained to
understand a variety of speech disorders; that knowledge enables them to repeat
what the caller says to the other party.
The FCC order amends certain mandatory minimum standards to
improve the relay service:
- Operators must stay with a call for a minimum of 20 minutes
before transferring the call to another operator.
- Relay service users may opt to have only the operator, and
not the other party, hear their voice.
- Speech-to-speech systems must be as easy to reach as other
types of telephone relay services.
The FCC also issued a notice of proposed rulemaking and is
seeking comments on whether it should adopt additional recommendations on
improving speech-to-speech relay services.
Autism Screening Task Force Incorporates ASHA Suggestions
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force will include ASHA's recommendations in its efforts to develop recommendation on autism screening in young children.
The task force, an independent panel of non-federal primary
care providers who are experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine,
conducts scientific evidence reviews of preventive health care services. It
then develops recommendations for primary care clinicians and health systems.
As a member of the autism topic group, ASHA submitted
comments on the task force's draft research plan, which outlines the framework and key review questions. The task force accepted two ASHA recommendations: to broaden one of the outcomes to include communication in addition to language, and to address the effect of culture and language on screening outcomes.
The task force made these changes:
- Revised a question to state: "What is the effect of interventions targeting young children (in preschool and elementary school) on the following outcomes: core ASD symptoms, cognitive and intellectual functioning, language and communication skill development, challenging behavior, adaptive behavior, educational placement/achievement, and quality of life for the child and family?"
- Added: "What is the effect of intervention timing (by age and in relation to the establishment of a definitive diagnosis) on treatment outcomes? What is the effect of severity of ASD on treatment outcomes?"
- Added: "Do other characteristics of the child or family (e.g., intellectual disability, socioeconomic status, literacy level, insurance status, race/ethnicity, primary language spoken in home, limited English proficiency) modify the performance characteristics of ASD screening tests?"
Look for more information in future issues of the
Prenatal Smoking Linked to Kids' Hearing Loss
New York University School of Medicine researchers have
found that in utero exposure to tobacco smoke may cause sensorineural hearing
loss. In an analysis of adolescents ages 12 to 15 from the 2005–2006 National
Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, teens who had been exposed to smoking
in utero were roughly three times more likely to have mild hearing loss. Kids
without exposure also were found to hear better by three decibels in comparison
with those who were exposed.
Researchers found negative effects even when the mothers
quit smoking in their first trimester of pregnancy. The study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology, could not determine how,
exactly, the damage is caused or what the exact long-term effects may be. But
it did report hearing loss could lead to other problems for youngsters, including
cognitive and behavioral issues affecting academic and social skills, or even
other problems such as a lower IQ and dropping out of school.