ACB's James R. Olsen Distinquiahed Public Award was presented to Caesar Eghtesadi for two decades of making the world accessible to blind people..
I Wish I had a Stenomask with Me
By John M. Williams
I have reported on more than 200 conferences in the U.S. and foreign countries. I have interviewed several thousand people at these conferences. I have interviewed them in their bedrooms, over meals, sitting at bars, working out in gyms, in penthouses, in hallways, at their booths, in taxi cabs, at swimming pools, souvenir shops and at first aid stations.
At conferences, I prefer to interview people in quiet places where I can hear what is being said without straining my hearing and shouting my question.
In June I went to the 8th Annual M-Enabling Summit Conference and Showcase. The conference advocates assistive technology for senior citizens and users of all abilities. It is an annual meeting place for all who create and contribute accessible ICT products, services, connected devices and consumer technologies. With its theme of “Accessibility: Transforming Users’ Experience” the conference provided a platform for empowering technologies with a focus on next-generation innovations and breakthroughs for users of all abilities.
Hundreds of people were there from 14 countries. Most of the exhibitors focused on accessibility issues. Each of the exhibitors claimed they produced results and offered services that their competitors didn’t.
Until recently, background noise has never bothered me doing interviews at conferences. This time the background noise irritated me. I had not been to a conference of this nature in five or six years. Besides the people noises came from carts being pushed, music, radios, elevators stopping and videos running. There was no way I could drown all that noise.. My digital hand-held recorder has good sounding quality. Seven weeks ago, I was introduced to the Talk Technologies’ Stenomask and Steno SR (speech recognition) and TalkSystem (vhttps://talktech.com/).
The Stenomask is a handheld microphone built into a padded, sound-proof enclosure fitting over the speaker’s mouth. It also allows users to speak without being heard by others and mutes background noise.
The TalkSystem is a portable voice-silenced communication system capable of handling up to 32 languages simultaneously to an unlimited number of listeners. The TalkSystem allows an interpreter to simultaneously translate spoken words without being heard by anyone except the intended listener.
The interpreter speaks into a Stenomask, a handheld voice containment unit housing a special microphone. The Stenomask prevents anyone from overhearing the interpreter’s voice. The Stenomask is connected to a small, wireless transmitter which in turn, transmits to a pocket-size receiver with attached earbuds. The listener sets the channel on the receiver to the appropriate language and can then hear a simultaneous translation of the speaker’s words as they are spoken.
New accessible technologies are rapidly transforming the way users interact with digital interfaces. The M-Enabling Summit supports independent living in an interconnected world for seniors and persons with disabilities. These technological advances are becoming an essential differentiator in gaining a competitive advantage. The M-Enabling program is designed to give participants the tools, knowledge, and networking opportunities to implement into their everyday lives in this rapidly expanding market of assistive and accessible technologies.
Before attending the conference, I was given a list of attendees to interview. They knew I was looking for them. I found them at different sessions, in the hallways, at exhibitors booths, at the registration desk, eating lunch or in a lounge. Most of the people I interviewed gave me a fraction of the time I needed. They were going to a meeting, another session or they had to make an important call.
Located in British Columbia, Vancouver, Talk Technologies supplies advanced acoustic products, and language interpretation solutions, serving the mobile consumer electronics, education, communications, medical, military, judicial, aerospace, and industrial markets.
The company’s goal is to optimize audio systems and improve the user experience in smart phones, tablets, transmitters, recorders and desktops.
Perhaps, because it was my first attended conference in five years and because at 74 years-old, I have lost some hearing in my right ear, I was truly annoyed at the difficulty I had I talking to the people at the conference. I attended the conference all three days. Each evening of the conference I struggled to organize and update my notes. I was a slow burning fuse. It was taking me three times as long to get the information I needed to produce three articles.
For the first time in nearly 40 years of covering conferences, I felt inadequate as I interviewed the attendees and then translated my notes . I knew about the Stenomask but I did not do anything about it. Form my first day at the conference until the third day when it concluded, I kept repeating to myself – I wished I had a Stenomask with me.