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
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: