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

Thu Sep 10, 2009 9:00pm EDT

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

TAIPEI, Taiwan, Sept. 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — 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/

Media Contact

Emma Chung
Communications
IBM Taiwan
+ 886 2 8723 9616
emmasc@tw.ibm.com

Harriet Ip
Communications,
IBM Growth Markets Unit
+65-6418-1521
harrieti@sg.ibm.com

Sandra Dressel
IBM Corporate Communications
+914-499-6609
sdressel@us.ibm.com

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

Reproduced from http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS19467+11-Sep-2009+PRN20090911