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Plenary Session: Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure

By Cheryl Heppner, 6/15/11 


Every so often there’s a presentation that excites me and expands my imagination with the promise of accessible future. This presentation by Dr. Jim Tobias was just the ticket!

Jim has focused on accessible and usable technology for the past 30 years and has also been a tremendous advocate for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind. As a new graduate with a Master’s Degree in Industrial Design, he got his start at the famed Berkeley Center for Independent Living, where the independent living movement first took flight. Jim next worked for the Bell Labs and Bellcore, where he led initiatives on accessibility. He is now president of Inclusive Technologies, where he specializes in accessible information and communication technologies.

About Global Public Information Infrastructure

- Global Public Information Infrastructure, GPII for short, is a plan for global technology services to provide accessibility. It is being designed to work on any device no matter where you are or when you need it.

- GPII is an electronic network that combines cloud computing and web and platform services, with a Wizard that walks you through a series of choices to create individual profiles. These profile choices lead to creating tools for your toolbox, which GPII will store.

- After you’ve created your individual profile, GPII will take the right profile and features when you need an access. It will check the device you are using and send the access features to your device, interfacing and making them immediately available without the need for reinstalling or reconfiguring technology. The network is private and secure.

Who is Behind Global Public Information Infrastructure

GPII is intended to help developers create access features at low cost and make them available quickly and globally. It is in the beginning stage, working with consumer advocates and others. The consortia building the GPII includes: Raising the Floor, Cloud 4 All, Daisy Consortium, Fluid, and Universal Subtitles.

Raising the Floor International is, as the name attests, an international organization. Its headquarters is located in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a cooperative of people in the public and private sector, several universities, nonprofit organizations, and consumer advocacy groups. Raising the Floor recently signed an agreement with a nonprofit organization for collaborative captioning. Funding of $10 million has been received from the US, Canada, and Europe. Some proposals are on review.

In the past, Jim said, he has been frustrated by the separation of technology projects and the needs of actual consumers. There has not been enough linkage in how products and services are designed. Raising the Floor is trying to build in the voice of the technology user at the start, capturing what a consumer uses, what they like, and what they want to have. Engineers working on this project will be in the same room to hear from the beginning what consumers want.

Raising the Floor will be going through a process to get questionnaires and other research tools approved. Consumers who are interested in being involved can work with TDI. They can decide if they want to be more involved in trials and tests.

Jim called GPII a road building program that is building interstate highways and maps right now. Companies who already have a market could use it to reach consumers more easily.

Some Examples of What Might be Done

1. You need online captions

If the online video is not captioned:

- GPII technology searches to find out whether captions for this video are available elsewhere on the Web. –

- If captions are found, GPII determines whether the captions are in real time.

- If they are not found, the video is captioned offline and the user is notified when they are ready.

- The video’s producer is also be notified that a consumer requested the captions, thus becoming aware of how many can benefit from the captions.

If the online video is captioned:

- GPII displays the captions according to the preferences you’ve chosen on the device you are using.

- You will be given the opportunity to correct or comment on the captions.

- You can have the captions translated.

2. You need adaptive audio (for individuals who are hard of hearing)

- The GPII system detects noise in the environment.

- It automatically adjusts the audio signal properties to create the best output for the user’s preferences and the device the consumer is using.

If this can be achieved, Jim said, “you could go to the loudest party and still feel confident about getting the audio quality and volume needed.” A profile with your current hearing aid, your hearing preferences, and your audiology profile could be used to adjust any audio output device for a speaker via public location finding technology.

3. You want to be able to use “any cam videotelephony” on any networked camera (such as video relay service or video remote interpreting).

An example would be the ability to use a library computer as a public site for making video relay service calls. Another possibility is that in a public emergency you can use sign language and the security camera could route the video to the appropriate staff, while the system intelligently recognizes your signs and routes them to an interpreter. GPII could hunt for the most appropriate interpreter or communication assistant at the moment, such as an interpreter who is familiar with cardiology.

What GPII intends to do would change our lives in a very profound way. You won’t have to tell people what you need for accessibility; you will be able to show up anywhere with all the things you need.

GPII wants to bring in additional advisors to whom they have a commitment to give information and respond to all comments. There will be a lot of focus groups, demonstrations and trials.

Individuals recruited for the trials will be both sophisticated and unsophisticated users of technology. GPII also wants to recruit, train and hire more people with disabilities in the field because there is a dearth of engineers who understand the needs of people with disabilities.

GPII is looking for real, hard numbers and as much market information as it can get. They would like to have local points of contact for consumer testing.


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For more information about Inclusive Technology please click here.