Two weeks ago, I bumped into Charlie Swinbourne, the Editor of this site, and we were talking about the future of technology when I told him my theory of ‘Peak Deaf Access.’ He asked me to share it with a wider audience, so here it is!
Most of us know about ‘Peak Oil Theory,’ the idea that at some point the world’s supply of oil reaches its peak and from then on many of the things we take for granted – like a plentiful and relatively cheap supply of fuel and energy – enters terminal decline, becoming gradually more scarce, and expensive.
Well I have a ‘Peak Deaf Access’ theory, which works roughly along the same lines.
I think we have reached a peak in access terms, or are about to reach it. I believe that there will be a long decline for access for profoundly deaf people from now on as the use of voice recognition systems takes off.
Profoundly deaf people have vastly benefited from the digital revolution. Once, we were left out when society depended on the phone. Then fax machines and textphones gave us a small step forward. But that was nothing compared to what followed: the internet, emails, text messaging, webcams and smartphones. We now take many of these advances for granted.
To input information to many of these systems, we still use keyboards. However, as new devices have come in that don’t use a traditional keyboard, they’re starting to offer voice recognition as a way of inputting information instead. For an example, just look at Apple’s Siri voice recognition system for the iPhone.
The problem is that all attempts so far to create a system that can recognise signs in the same way as voices have failed. Voices are soundwaves which is linear, relatively easy to convert into meaningful computerised data, whereas signs exist in 3D physical space, and are accompanied by intricate facial expressions. It’s hard to imagine a system being invented for sign language recognition anytime soon.
One day, I think all the keyboards will be gone, the buttons on smartphones will be gone, and everything will be like Star Trek – with people walking into lifts and speaking to say which floor they want to go to. One day people will laugh at the concept where people had to press individual keys H…E…L…L…O, its so much quicker and easier to just say the word ‘Hello’ and speak hundreds of words effortlessly. Appliances at home (such as toasters, washing machines, ovens), cars and even televisions will be operated through voice recognition.
Every other disability group will benefit hugely, no need for physical touch, no need for specially adjusted input devices… And us Deafies? We’ll be left out.
So there it is. My theory of ‘Peak Deaf Access.’ Don’t say you haven’t been warned!
What do you think? Have we reached ‘Peak Deaf Access?’ Leave your comment below.
Mark Nelson is Chief Executive of Remark!, the UK’s largest deaf media company. He has worked in deaf media for 21 years. Check out their website here. Http://remark.uk.com
The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
Please note that the views of the writers are their own, and not necessarily the views of the Editor or site as a whole. Read our disclaimer here.
- Phonak: innovative technology and products in hearing acoustics
- Ai-Live: Find out about the human element to live captions.
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Clarion: BSL/English interpreting and employment services
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- Hearing Direct: Online hearing aids
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Signworld: online BSL learning and teaching materials
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- Sign Solutions:, language and learning
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- SDHH: Project Development and Consultancy
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people
- deafPLUS: Money advice line in BSL
- Happy: Microsoft Office courses taught in BSL and SSE by a Deaf trainer – all abilities catered for
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- Krazy Kat: visual theatre with BSL
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- DCAL: Find out how to study at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, London
- cSeeker: Deaf-led educational communication support service
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- Sarah Gatford: BSL interpreting, training and consultancy
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people