Sometimes you come across a piece of news for deaf children and young people so good that it takes a while for it to sink in. That was the case for me when I found out that Google has developed speech recognition software that has the potential to ensure more online videos on most of its websites will now be subtitled. Including Youtube videos.
Personally, if you’d asked me a week ago about universal online subtitles, I would have said it’s a great idea, but probably technologically impossible. Well, thanks to deaf leadership at Google, I’ve pretty much been shown to be a complete Luddite.
The importance for deaf children and young people? Well, to give one example, listen into a playground conversation and I bet many children will be talking about the latest youtube craze or embarassment. Now deaf children and young people can be involved in those playground chats.
Hopefully, everyone who uploads videos will make use of the new software. And that all other providers of online subtitles will take note and follow suit quickly. I am particularly thinking of BBC news online and their continuing abject failure to caption stories featuring deaf children, despite assurances to the contrary…
As it uses speech recognition software, there are bound to be some painful (and amusing) typos. But it still a massive step forward. If there was an award for most promising and exciting technological development for deaf people in 2009, this would have to be one of the contenders. Maybe the 21st century is about to arrive for deaf children and young people after all?