[Athen] Food for Thought: Research in Machine ASL Translation

Lynn Wilson admin at nadp-uk.org
Wed May 17 09:35:32 PDT 2017

Really interesting article and future developments may prove invaluable to
Deaf sign language-users.

I do agree that captions can be difficult to read with lower levels of
reading skill. It also depends on how they are done though. Moving captions
are very difficult to read if you need to look at words for a length of
time. Much easier if they are static on the screen.

It will also depend on whether written English is the native language. The
difference in word order for ASL/BSL can mean that the reader is slower and
so captions can be difficult to read. It is the same for Deaf or hearing
speakers of other languages too. I often advised academic staff that a
transcript of videos may prove more useful than captions but this is a
matter of student choice. Students with dyslexia, dyspraxia and AD(H)D also
reported that they found captions distracting so captions that can be
switiched off are good.

My daughter is profoundly Deaf and had her first hearing aids at 3 months
old. I put all available captions on TV when she was very small so she got
used to them. She learnt to speak nouns and verbs fairly easily but
conjunctions were difficult so I taught her to use them by reading them
first. By the time she was 5 years old she was getting a good idea of what
was going on in children's TV programmes (those that were captioned). She
reports that captions were vital to her through secondary school and

Best wishes


From: athen-list [mailto:athen-list-bounces at mailman13.u.washington.edu] On
Behalf Of Nast, Joseph
Sent: 17 May 2017 16:15
To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: [Athen] Food for Thought: Research in Machine ASL Translation

Interesting article on slate.com:


Particularly jarring quote from Harley Hamilton, computer scientist at
Georgia Tech affiliated with the Center for Accessible Technology in Sign
(http://www.cats.gatech.edu/): "For kids, captioning is almost a waste of
time. "

NOTE: According to the article, Mr. Hamilton's reasoning seems to stem from
Galludet University's 2011 report entitled "Reading Research & Deaf
deaf-children.pdf) which reports 18-year-olds who are deaf on average have a
reading level that ". has remained relatively stable at the third to fourth
grade level for more than half a century."

Joseph M. Nast

Assistive Technology Specialist

Lone Star College Cy Fair Disability Services

Office: CASA 109

Phone: (281) 290-3207

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