Do Good Things: Justice for All – Pt. 1

An IEEE NJ Coast Section SIGHT Group Project

Globally, people with Hearing Loss and Deafness experience disparate treatment and a limited ability to participate in many settings including Courts, Healthcare, Schools, Workplaces, etc. Accommodation technology solutions are expensive, developed in silos, complicated with proprietary interfaces, not interoperable with mainstream communication technologies, and often do not overcome hearing-related obstacles. Costs may be onerous and many decide not to provide accommodation. For example, courthouses, attorneys, schools, public theaters, and other venues might fail to provide equipment or sign language interpreters to accommodate people with hearing loss.

Therefore, our Team including Dave Nall, IEEE Senior Member and Avi Hauser, PhD Volunteer and founding Members of the SIGHT Group focuses on low cost open source Sustainable AI Hearing Accessibility solutions using mainstream communications technologies including WiFi, Mobile Phones, apps, with distribution bridging the technology gap even for those with limited resources. Our diverse Team includes people with hearing loss, engineers, stakeholders, attorneys, judges, professors, audiologists, and others who have made contributions to developing requirements for our activities and projects.

During many of our meetings we brainstorm, investigate, do mock-ups, and seek feedback from people with needs. We write up ideas and illustrate, so we can easily share them with advisors and the community to validate the ideas and determine if they should move to prototype. In the image above, a person with hearing loss is in a noisy restaurant; it is often difficult to hear even with a hearing aid. A brainstorming solution illustrated above with Avi Hauser, PhD, Nitza Hauser, Volunteers, and Katherine Grace August, PhD IEEE Senior Member, shows that a sensor can be used, and a user interface indicates which direction a listener should attend to more effectively hear the speaker. We share the ideas with Team members, and then make plans. We also keep up a Journal Club, sharing articles and information with others. Many Team members bring skills with them, and we seek to develop new skills along the way.

Through our activities, our growing Team which includes Margaret J Lyons, PE, Katherine Grace August, PhD, and Ellen Lawrence pictured above planned to raise awareness of a combination of social, cultural, and technical issues for example, how even slight hearing loss interferes with a person’s speech understanding and can impact access to education, healthcare, employment, social interactions, and the justice system creating disparity; we aim to overcome limitations of expensive hearing aids which leave many people underserved since only about ten percent of the volume needed is produced worldwide. We have a growing network of local and international Team Members including Professor Hong Man, PhD, IEEE Senior Member Stevens Institute of Technology, Professor Mathini Sellathurai, PhD, IEEE Senior Member Herriot Watt University Edinburgh, Professor Herbert Jelinek, PhD, IEEE Senior Member, Charles Sturt University, Australia, and Professor Andrzej MJ Skulimowski, PhD IEEE Member, AMS Poland, who help us not only with technical matters, but also help us maintain broader understanding of diversity.

Article by NJ Coast Section SIGHT group Chair Dr. Katherine August.