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IBM and Chinese Deaf Association Launch Real-time, Online Sign Language Interpretation Service

First-of-a-kind Internet Service Supports Organization of 2009 Deaflympics

Submitted by: IBM

Categories: Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility

Posted: Sep 11, 2009 – 08:09 AM EST


TAIPEI, Taiwan, Sep. 11 /CSRwire/ - IBM (NYSE: IBM) and the Chinese Deaf Association announced the launch of an online sign language interpretation service in Taiwan, aimed to provide video and audio instant messaging services to the deaf. The service, initially used to support the organization of the 21st Summer Deaflympics held in Taipei city from September 5 to 15, will benefit over 200,000 deaf and hearing impaired people in Taiwan.

Through the service, the deaf and hearing impaired will have access anywhere, at anytime to the sign interpretation service across the whole island of Taiwan. Imagine a person with hearing loss can sit through a lecture with a sign language interpreter interpreting the speech in real time.

Furthermore, IBM has also built the first Web site for the local deaf community in Taiwan, called iSign iHear, providing the deaf and hearing impaired with the basic information they require in a format of video clips. The content of the Web site is designed based on user needs covering daily news, healthcare, legal service and job information. In the section of Life Map, places where the deaf often visit or stores owned by deaf people are marked to help the deaf get around in Taiwan more easily. To address the unique needs of the deaf and hearing impaired, the sign language interpretation tool can be downloaded at the Web site.

Said Xi-Long Chu, Council Chairman of Chinese Deaf Association, "From my own experience, it is really difficult for the deaf to perform normal daily activities. For example, credit card bill payment or stock trading, which can be done on the phone, are simply too difficult for the deaf to handle, let alone those more complicated matters such as car accident or work disputes. The real time sign language interpretation service will significantly improve the quality of life of the deaf."

According to Ministry of the Internal Affairs, there are nearly 200,000 deaf or hearing impaired people in Taiwan, of which 23,000 are living in the Taipei city. Interpretation service, required especially when the deaf or hear impaired people encounter issues related to healthcare, legal service, employment and work, is not easily available. In Taipei, for instance, a deaf person receives only 20 hours of sign language interpretation service monthly from Department of Labor and Department of Social Welfare and the service must be booked five days in advance. The cost of engaging sign language interpreters is high and there is also a lack of qualified sign language interpreters.

How it works
In response to the M-Taiwan project initiated by Ministry of Economic Affairs, IBM and Chinese Deaf Association started working in 2008 to build the online, real-time sign language interpretation service based on IBM Lotus Sametime instant messaging solution and WiMax wireless broadband technology.

A person with hearing loss can install the Lotus application on their wireless laptops equipped with a Web cam and wireless internet connection. When they are communicating or listening to people who don't know sign language, they can connect to a Web-based service center where sign language interpreters are available. Using instant messaging and video chat, the interpreter can facilitate the conversation by signing to the person with a hearing impairment and when necessary translating the sign language for the hearing person.

"IBM is committed to fulfilling its corporate social responsibility by leveraging technologies to help people have a higher quality and more productive life," said Edward Yu, General Manager, IBM Taiwan. "This is not only the first online sign language interpretation platform in Asia, but the first communication platform in the world for the deaf that can be accessed through the WiMax network."

To address the demands for sign language interpretation during the 2009 Deaflympics Game, IBM will initially provide 30 laptops and equipment at the game venues and service centers to provide sign language interpretation service to Taiwan athletes and staff. For this project, IBM will provide 200 laptops in total to the deaf community to validate the service model and efficiency through this platform. In the future, the service model can be replicated to cover foreign languages or dialects to provide real-time interpretation service.

For more information on IBM, please visit: http://www.ibm.com/ or on IBM accessibility, please visit: http://www-03.ibm.com/able/product_accessibility/ibmcommitment.html

For more information on "iSign iHear", please visit: http://www.isign-ihear.org.tw/

For more information on M-Taiwan Project, please go to: http://m-taiwan.niu.edu.tw/m_1.html

For more information on Chinese Deaf Association, please visit: http://www.deaf.org.tw/

For more information, please contact:

Emma Chung Communications, IBM Taiwan
Phone: + 886 2 8723 9616
Harriet Ip Communications, IBM Growth Markets Unit
Phone: +65-6418-1521
Sandra Dressel IBM Corporate Communications
Phone: +914-499-6609

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