Further reflections from the ICTs and disabilities events in Kathmandu

Posted on March 20, 2018  /  0 Comments

The hearing or speech disabled require sign-language interpretation to communicate with the normally-abled world. But sign-language interpreters are scarce. Unless there is a sign-language competent person in the household (e.g., a child who can communicate through the spoken word who also knows sign language), it is quite challenging. Some spoke of having to interact with medical personnel by writing notes. This requires literacy. In Nepal the overall literacy was 59.9 percent in 2016. It is likely to be lower among the hearing/speech disabled.

As Korea was preparing for the Seoul Olympics in 1988, it grappled with the problem of how foreign visitors could communicate with Korean taxi drivers. The solution was a mobile-voice-based interpretation service. The customer would speak in a foreign language to the installed microphone; the driver would be able to hear it in Korean.

Would it not be possible to develop a solution to the problem of Nepali speech or hearing disabled using this model? Instead of voice channels, video links could be established in the most important locations. But this may not be the most convenient. A doctor, for example, may not be willing to leave the OPD area to go to a specially equipped location to interact with the interpreter.

What if WiFi hotspots were created in locations where hearing/speech disabled interacted with government officials and the interpretation was provided remotely over smartphones? The associations providing support to the hearing/speech disabled would mobilize the interpreters, sometimes from central locations equipped with reliable high quality connections and sometimes over smartphones. In the latter instance volunteers would be going about their day-to-day business and would be called up to interpret on an as-needed basis.

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