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Re: Accessibility and sign languages (was Re: Suggested issues ... innext version of guidelines)

From: Chris Kreussling <CHRIS.KREUSSLING@ny.frb.org>
Date: Fri, 06 Aug 1999 11:22:04 -0400
To: jasonw@ariel.ucs.unimelb.edu.au
Cc: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Message-id: <s7aac5d5.039@ny.frb.org>
>>> <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org> 08/06 10:17 AM >>>
I would suggest that we consider the possibility of automatic conversion to
sign language (one of the easier forms of machine translation, I suspect) and
that we attempt to ensure that if it is possible we are able to cope with it.

Charles McCN

On Tue, 3 Aug 1999, Jason White wrote:

  What I am essentially asking is whether any requirements pertaining to the
  translation of text into sign languages, whether automated or not, or the
  representation of such languages via the web, should be included in a
  subsequent version of the guidelines. This is one issue which has been
  consistently raised in discussion but in regard to which no firm decisions
  have been taken. My remarks were intended to ensure that the issue remains
  on the agenda, rather than to suggest any concrete proposal.

--Charles McCathieNevile            mailto:charles@w3.org 
phone: +1 617 258 0992   http://www.w3.org/People/Charles 
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative    http://www.w3.org/WAI 
MIT/LCS  -  545 Technology sq., Cambridge MA, 02139,  USA

I'm going to make some statements, and hope someone proves me wrong!

1) Translation of text written in one language into a sign language - English to ASL, say - is at least as difficult as translation into another textual language - English to French, Russian, Japanese, whatever. I think translation between languages is (should be) beyond the scope of "accessibility." TRANSCRIPTION of text to sign may be possible, for example: English to MCE, Manual-Coded English. The language is still English; its representation/format is different: speech, versus text, versus sign. This becomes accessible to the person who's deaf to the spoken language and illiterate in the written language and who's been educated in the manual encoding of the language. This doesn't become any more accessible to the native speaker of a sign language who doesn't already know English.

2) There are no "text equivalents" for sign languages. There are some systems of encoding or capturing many aspects of sign languages in written or graphical form. However, these systems are not used beyond research or academic settings and communities. In particular, they are not in common use by native speakers of sign languages, nor even by students or interpreters. Analogues for spoken languages would be transcription into phonetic alphabets, or sentence diagrams. It should be possible to tag such representations as an "experimental" language or MIME type when they appear on the Web, so that those who understand and use them can locate and share them.

3) One result of the two previous statements is that there's no way to universally caption sign language, for example: a video clip of a signer. The video clip would be tagged as sign language (lang=x-ASL?), while the caption would be tagged as whatever written language it was translated into (lang=en-US).

<author>Chris Kreussling</author>
<disclaimer>The views expressed are 
those of the author and do not necessarily 
reflect the position of the Federal Reserve 
Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve 
Received on Friday, 6 August 1999 11:26:14 UTC

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