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Accessibility innovation through gestural and sign-language interfaces


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CSUN 2014 talk by Professor Jonathan Hassell describing how Hassell Inclusion, Gamelab UK, and Reflex Arc are using Natural User Interface technologies like Microsoft Kinect to create a whole new generation of assistive technologies based around the movements, gestures and signs different groups of disabled people make.

Two projects are described:
Nepalese Necklace movement games for blind and partially-sighted children that encourage blind and partially-sighted children to engage more readily with their early mobility training through making the body- and spatial-awareness exercises they have to perform the controls for motivational 3D audio-games;

uKinect sign language eLearning games to help people who use sign language to more easily transition into employment by enabling them to learn workplace-specific sign vocabularies using instructive video and our innovative Kinect sign-language recognition system.

NB. All videos in my CSUN presentation had captions, but it's not currently possible to caption the embedded videos in this slideshare. If you need access to the captioned videos, email

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Accessibility innovation through gestural and sign-language interfaces

  1. 1. Accessibility innovation through gestural and sign-language interfaces Prof Jonathan Hassell (@jonhassell) Director, Hassell Inclusion Visiting Professor, London Metropolitan University CSUN, San Diego, USA 19th March 2013
  2. 2. 1Accessibility and innovation
  3. 3. Without these innovators (and more) the lives of disabled people would be much impoverished
  4. 4. Jim Thatcher for the first Screen Reader Thanks to
  5. 5. Ray Kurzweil for the first commercial speech recognition (& much more)
  6. 6. Bill Kastner, WGBH and the BBC for the first closed captioning
  7. 7. Gregg Vanderheiden for starting the accessibility guidelines ball rolling
  8. 8. Tim Berners Lee for “the power of the web is in its universality…” (inspired by Mike Paciello)
  9. 9. The legislators behind Section 508 (USA) and Disability Discrimination Act Pt III (UK)
  10. 10. Rob Sinclair for making ATs easier to create with MSAA and UIA
  11. 11. Maguire & SOCOG for giving the world its first web accessibility test case
  12. 12. The WebAIM crew for getting the word out and stoking the discussion
  13. 13. Julie Howell and the PAS/78 authors for making accessibility more strategic
  14. 14. Shawn Lawton Henry for building a bridge between accessibility & usability
  15. 15. Mick Curran & James Teh for making screenreaders affordable with NVDA
  16. 16. Steve Jobs for making accessibility built in as standard in Apple products
  17. 17. Jennison Asuncion for GAAD
  18. 18. And all those who funded their work, used what they created, shared the news…
  19. 19. And …
  20. 20. As mobile technology enables more people to be innovators
  21. 21. Why shouldn’t your face be here…?
  22. 22. None of those guys were available… so you’ve got me: Jonathan Hassell • >13 years experience in accessibility and inclusion • lead author of BS 8878 British Accessibility Standards • former Head of Usability & Accessibility, BBC • led work to embed accessibility across BBC web, mobile and IPTV production teams • won BIMA 2008 & Access-IT@Home awards for the accessibility features of BBC iPlayer • Product Manager of innovative products: • won IMS Global Learning Impact Award 2010 for MyDisplay • won ‘Best Usability & Accessibility’ BIMA 2006 for My Web, My Way • 3 x Bafta-nominated for breakthrough rich-media eLearning projects for disabled children
  23. 23. 2What is innovation?
  24. 24. “Fresh thinking that creates value”
  25. 25. “The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.”
  26. 26. Great innovations come from… User needs Technology possibilities Sustainable market/fundi ng Great innovations
  27. 27. 3“Where do you get your ideas from…?”
  28. 28. How to source ideas… From following market trends (e.g. everything goes social…) From listening to users’ unmet needs and finding ways to meet them From encouraging your team to come up with ideas From following technology possibilities (Freeview => Youview)
  29. 29. How inclusion helps ideation… From following market trends (e.g. everything goes social…) From listening to users’ unmet needs and finding ways to meet them From encouraging your team to come up with ideas From following technology possibilities (Freeview => Youview)
  30. 30. The problem of fixation…
  31. 31. How people try to free themselves from it… ‘Draw an alien’ to free yourself from conventional thinking
  32. 32. Why not find a challenge closer to home? Think about how a disabled person would use your product…
  33. 33. The beauty of constraints…
  34. 34. © 2011 Centre for Business Innovation Ltd - 34 - Centre for Business Innovation “Connected Communities, helping you Do more with Less” Engineering Design Centre The potential of inclusive design: OXO Good Grips • Well-known pioneer of Inclusive Design in the USA • Sam Farber’s wife, a keen cook, suffered from arthritis “Why do ordinary kitchen tools hurt your hands?” • First 15 products launched in 1990 • Sales growth over 35% per year from 1991 to 2002 • The line has now grown to over 500 products • Over 100 design awards received Look where asking the right question can get you…
  35. 35. How focusing on users takes you beyond inclusion… From following market trends (e.g. everything goes social…) From listening to users’ unmet needs and finding ways to meet them From encouraging your team to come up with ideas From following technology possibilities (Freeview => Youview)
  36. 36. Audience research – focus groups, ethnographic studies etc.
  37. 37. Keep listening through iterative user-testing Do initial audience research User test to get better audience research Develop minimal, flexible next version If more improvement justified, cycle…
  38. 38. Use a user-centred development process to help you – BS 8878
  39. 39. How mainstream products have arisen from innovative ‘beyond inclusion’ solutions
  40. 40. 4Innovation through Natural User Interfaces
  41. 41. Example 1: uKinect Sign Recognition
  42. 42. Speech recognition is cool
  43. 43. Speech translation is cooler
  44. 44. The Funding Vision • Learners with disabilities may lack independence due to an inability to communicate by speech or due to lack of motor control • If signs and gestures can be easily learned, recognized and converted to digital data, a whole new world of opportunity opens up. TechDis, BIS, TSB SBRI ‘Making Waves’ competition
  45. 45. The ideal
  46. 46. The “breakthrough” inspiration • device-to-translate-sign-language-into- speech and events/Fulbright/2012/may/ p
  47. 47. It takes time… – cf. Siri Speech recognition was able to understand digits in the 1950s… Siri’s intelligence has been worked on for at least 10 years
  48. 48. The problem We had 6 months…
  49. 49. User-focused approach User needs Technology possibilities Sustainable funding/ma rket Great innovations
  50. 50. Our breakthrough technology enabler  The way ahead
  51. 51. The way ahead Looked for people who could benefit from each of our (baby) steps…
  52. 52. Why choose Makaton-users as our target audience? British Sign Language Makaton Thousands of signs (> 21,000) Hundreds of signs Individual sign vocab > 5,000 Individual sign vocab < 200 Long sequences of signs 1 or 2 sign sequences Sign quality fairly uniform Sign quality very variable, plus personal (idiosyncratic) signs Many competing teams innovating in this field Very few competing teams innovating in this field
  53. 53. User-Centred Approach Engagement through a character and humour… Inspiration: Talking Tom
  54. 54. Proof of concept solution Watch the video at:
  55. 55. Phase Two
  56. 56. Users and contexts of use Signing e-Learning game Users with comms difficulties through LDs, Autism, stroke Education Employment Independent Living Supporters of these users: colleagues, teachers, carers, parents
  57. 57. Product launching May-14
  58. 58. Hints of a new opportunity “Boris was so engaging that blind students were also asking to use it to learn to sign…”
  59. 59. Example 2: The Nepalese Necklace A Movement Game for Blind and VI Children
  60. 60. The Nepalese Necklace Original concept • The idea: • using audio-games & Microsoft Kinect’s gesture recognition to encourage blind and partially-sighted children to engage more readily with their mobility training • The project: • an inexpensive, 3 month Proof of Concept to investigate the idea’s potential in a concrete, testable way
  61. 61. The Nepalese Necklace UCD Approach • Initial user-research • found experts in the learning, and representatives of the learners • created a way of giving both an initial idea of what we were talking about, to get their attention and buy-in • asked questions to “get into their world” • then created what they needed/wanted • Iterative user-testing • we did this every couple of weeks • there’s no substitute for it
  62. 62. The Nepalese Necklace Validation • Did final research to prove value • in all contexts of use (in homes as well as as schools) • over longer periods of testing, without expert presence (over at least a week, without you propping the PoC up) • observed and interviewed users & experts to understand how they behave and feel about the PoC • Got the results on video • nothing else quite proves your case
  63. 63. Partner of the Year Gamelab UK
  64. 64. If you remember one thing…
  65. 65. Listening to your diverse audiences needs… identifies challenges… but innovation often follows a challenge
  66. 66. So why shouldn’t this be you?
  67. 67. • the full guide on how to transform your organisation to achieve the consistent creation of web sites and apps that are usable and accessible to all your customers, at the most efficient cost • with practical case-studies from leading accessibility experts worldwide, including: • Jennison Asuncion (Canada), • Debra Ruh & Jeff Kline (USA), • Andrew Arch (Australia) • David Banes (Qatar) • Axel Leblois (UN) for information on the book, free access to video case- studies, and a chance of winning the book for free Click here for chance to win book There’s more on accessibility innovation in my book
  68. 68. Training & support for BS8878 Standards Innovation Strategy & research
  69. 69. More Hassell Inclusion at CSUN-14: Web Accessibility Myths for the mobile generation • Do disabled people really use ATs? • Is the most important accessibility issue for images alt-text? • Does inclusive design really benefit everyone? • Are the most important people in accessibility developers? • challenging some of the accepted views we hold that may no longer be true…
  70. 70. More Hassell Inclusion at CSUN-14: 7 Signs of maturing in accessibility and inclusion • The accessibility industry is aging and growing… • But is it maturing…? • how do you measure maturity in accessibility - in organisations, and as an industry? • from Tim Cook’s latest shareholder comments to the IAAP – here are 7 signs that we’re maturing as we grow…
  71. 71. Get in touch… e: t: @jonhassell w: