To spin or not to spin …

24 09 2009

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Spinvox have developed a system which, among other products, offers a speech to text voicemail service which is ideal for deaf people who want to be able to use voicemail, such as business owners. I activated the service on my Blackberry and it works very well. When someone phones me, I don’t bother to answer it but let it ring. The phone picks up the message and Spinvox converts the voice message into an email or a text message, and sends it to you. It’s been really useful, especially as it also leaves a link to a voice recording of the message so you can ask a hearing person to listen to it if the email was unclear (lots of people mumble!). Spinvox also prints the caller’s number so you can call them back.

My Spinvox service is paid for by Access to Work. It costs £5 a month for the subscription service and 30 pence for each message converted. There is no software to download.

Spinvox won’t work with a Pay As You Go phone, it must be on a contract phone. It’s very simple to set up although their website is a bit of a nightmare. Spinvox are currently running a promotional offer, free voicemail until the end of 2009. They will convert your messages into emails for free (not text – shame!).

However. There are rumblings …. humans compromise service confidentiality (who cares? I’m deaf. I NEED a voice to text service) …. the company is up for sale with a pre-tax loss of £30 million in 2007 (what about the future?) … basically, they seem to be hiding certain issues.

Which is a great shame, as they scored a major deal with Telefonica who will roll out its Voice Message Conversion System (VMCS) across 13 Latin American countries this autumn. Spinvox say they are the only speech-to-text service in the world that is available in six languages – Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese and Italian. But at what cost?

I’m not going to go into all the ins and outs of this issue as I’ve had one of those rare weeks. Meh. I’m just bringing it to your attention. For an interesting commentary on all this spin, check out this post after the jump and this post on Spinvox’s demo day.





Emergency SMS 999

16 09 2009

I’ve always felt hard done by when thinking about my safety. Being unable to hear on the phone, I would hate to be put in a position where I needed to call the police quickly if I was being mugged or burgled, or the ambulance service if there was an accident, or the fire service if I had a fire at home. I would always need to rely upon a hearing person to make that call. Assuming I could find someone quickly wherever and whenever that may be. Assuming they would be willing to make the call – what if they didn’t understand me or it was 3am?

But there’s hope. A new service is being trialled in the UK. You can now send a text message to the emergency services using 999 rather than a long number you can’t remember, or trying to call via Typetalk / Text Direct / Text Relay / Whatever It’s Called. This is fabulous news for people who can’t use the phone. You need to register your mobile phone with the service, which is very simple and takes 2 minutes.

Further details here: Emergency SMS

The RNID are running a survey on access to emergency services with the aim of improving access. More information after the jump.





New emergency text services

5 05 2008

A new emergency text service has been launched by police in Sussex. You can read about it here. To call an emergency service, send a text to 65999, starting with the word POLICE, FIRE, AMBULANCE, or COASTGUARD.

A similar service has started in Kent, send a text beginning with POLICE, MEDIC or RESCUE to 60066.

Bus passengers in Brighton and Hove can send a text if there are problems on the bus such as rowdiness. Text REPORT to 60060 and give a description of the incident, and your message will be passed on to the police.

It’s a shame the numbers are all different, unlike the national 999 number or 911 in the US. A national number would make more sense, wouldn’t it?





Deaf Awareness Week 2008 : Look at Me

1 05 2008

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May 5th – 11th is Deaf Awareness Week. The theme is LOOK AT ME which happens to tie in nicely with my blog 🙂 The aim is to raise awareness of the different methods of communication which deaf people use to communicate and therefore highlight the different types of deafness. ‘Deafness’ doesn’t just mean sign language users – it also means deafened people, hard of hearing people, deaf-blind people, and those who have tinnitus.

UKCoD have listed some events that are taking place nationwide to raise awareness of hearing loss and give people opportunities such as lip reading class taster sessions, and seeing the inside of your ear using video otoscopy.

A couple of events caught my eye….

* a pair of new Phonak Audeo hearing aids (which are the business) suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss are being given away by The Hearing Care Centre in Colchester, Essex. These are worth £3,500. You’ll need to grab a copy of the Colchester Gazette during Deaf Awareness Week.

* a text messaging service will be launched by Northamptonshire Police Force Communications Centre (FCC) for deaf people in the county. Way to go!

Hopefully this event will get bigger and better each year – that’s up to all of us to make it happen. (Text and logo courtesy of UKCoD)

Did you know, nearly 15% of the population have some degree of deafness. If your organisation has not made adjustments to help deaf and hard of hearing people access your products and services, then you may be excluding a considerable number of people.

For every 10,000 of the population:

TEN will be born profoundly deaf. They probably get little or no benefit from hearing aids and mainly use sign language to communicate.

TWENTY will have become profoundly deaf. They may use sign language and probably also lipread.

ONE HUNDRED will be partially deaf. They may have difficulty following what is being said, even with hearing aids. Mostly they will lipread and some use sign language as well.

SIX HUNDRED will be hard of hearing. They will be able to follow what is being said with a hearing aid and will be able to use a telephone if it has an adjustable volume or has been designed to be used with a hearing aid.

EIGHT HUNDRED will be mildly hard of hearing. They may have difficulty following conversations particularly in large groups or in noisy situations. Some will wear hearing aids and many find lipreading helpful.

• British Sign Language (BSL) is the first or preferred language of around 70,000 people in the UK
• About 2 million people in Britain wear hearing aids, maybe another million would benefit from doing so
• Almost all deaf and hard of hearing people rely on lipreading to some extent
• Many combine signs from BSL with English in order to communicate

Here are a few examples of ways to be more accessible to deaf people:-

• Develop the skills of your staff so that they have the knowledge and understanding to communicate effectively
• Overcome the communications barrier by providing deaf awareness training, human aids to communication or the use of appropriate technology
• Make sure your building is deaf-friendly by providing appropriate systems, such as an induction loop
• Plan public areas carefully with deaf visitors in mind and try out your plans with local deaf people to make sure they work
• Use plain English in your literature making it easy to read and understand
• Improve telecommunications by making available textphones, fax, Typetalk, emails, SMS and videophones.

Remember – if a hearing person and a deaf person have trouble communicating, the problem is shared: communication is everybody’s responsibility.