The eyes and ears of the deafblind | Innovation

The eyes and ears of the deafblind | Innovation

Javier García was 14 years old when he began to notice that he heard badly in class. His first reaction was to leave the studies and stay locked up at home. When his world as a teenager collapsed, life had a new and cruel setback for him. At age 16 he discovered that he was also losing his sight. But, paradoxically, as he himself says, the loss of vision threw a little light in the darkness.

He swore to himself that in life he would reach as high as he wanted. He learned the dactilological alphabet in palm and, with his braille line connected to a computer, he resumed his studies. Now Javier has a degree in Law and Business Administration with an outstanding grade. And he also took an Erasmus scholarship in London, where he learned to speak English, being the first European deafblind student to take advantage of this scholarship. "I have said and I will always say: if all the necessary means were put in place, impressive results would be obtained, because maybe there are people out there as capable or more than me, but who simply do not have the same opportunities to develop their capacities" .

A severe disability

Deafblindness is one of the most severe disabilities that exist. The combined loss of vision and hearing leads to extreme difficulty in communicating with the rest. For a long time, deafblind people have lived isolated. Leaving home alone became for them a high-risk exercise. Most of them require an interpreter to be able to cope with their daily life. We must bear in mind that, by not seeing or hearing, the communication form of this group is fundamentally through touch, and the society is not prepared to interact in an effective and affective way with them.

"Little by little, more and more, we have more accessibility tools that improve our autonomy, but there is still a lot to do," says Javier. "We know that every time we go out, every time we try to cross a traffic light and we do not know when it is green or red, because the information does not reach us by sight or by ear. Also when we want to access a reading material, or watch a movie or a newscast and that material is not accessible. "

Precisely, seeing an informative like any other person was one of the great wishes of Francisco Javier Trigueros, president of FASOCIDE, the Federation of Deafblind Associations of Spain.

Francisco had been collaborating with Movistar + to work on the accessibility of the contents from this television platform to groups of blind and deaf people. And it was in one of those meetings with Movistar + when Francisco commented on his idea: "I expressed the desire of people with deafblindness to have a system that would allow us to access the subtitles of televisions." Ángel García Crespo, director of the research group, was also present at that meeting SoftLab from the Carlos III University of Madrid, who I had been working on accessibility issues for more than 10 years.

"I had always wanted to work with deafblind people because it is a very small and often forgotten group. With the experience we had in audiovisual accessibility we knew we could use the subtitles of the televisions, which are floating through the air, and that allowed us to throw ourselves into the pool and say that we were going to be able to provide them with a tool, "Ángel explains. García Crespo.

This was how the team of Ángel García Crespo accepted the challenge and, with the support of Telefónica, the project was launched.

PervasiveSUB, a software pioneer

A work team was created where there were people in charge of developing all the part of the server and others who were in charge of the hardware, developing an application for both Android and iOS. Y PervasiveSUB was born that way, a software that collects the subtitles of the televisions and takes them to a central server, from where they are forwarded to smartphones or tablets. The person with deafblindness All you have to do is connect with the application – called GoAll- to the central server and choose the chain you want to access; the application is responsible for sending the subtitles to your braille line.

"We work a lot with the users," continues Ángel García Crespo to know the needs they have; for example, the reading speed of a person who is deafblind on a braille line is not the same as what we may have when reading the subtitles. So We set up the system so that subtitles could be passed in a slower way. We also had to bear in mind that Braille lines are not all the same: there are some that are shorter, others, longer; fortunately we have managed to make the application compatible with all of them, what we do is to split the subtitles to send that information according to the characters available on the line ".

The software PervasiveSUB is a pioneer in the world. Never before had a system been designed for access to information and entertainment for people who are deafblind. This project has been a technological milestone worldwide. Several countries in Latin America have already been interested in the software and the application, and will soon begin to be implemented in the USA. UU under the technical direction of this team of researchers.

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This is a sponsored news item prepared by Telefónica


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