The huge telecommunications application software product Skype specializes in providing users with video chat and voice calling via tablets, mobile devices, computers, the Xbox One console, smartwatches, and even regular telephones. The company also provides instant messaging options and allows video conference calls. Now they are looking to be even more versatile and inclusive by including options for Skype users who have hearing impairments, reports Eweek.
The video calling, web conferencing, and chat application now officially has live captioning and subtitles to make using the software easier on those who are deaf, have hearing disabilities, or who may speak varying languages from others in their video chat.
Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Skype’s chief accessibility officer, reported on the Microsoft Accessibility Blog recently that the new live captioning and subtitle capabilities will arrive natively in Microsoft PowerPoint by early 2019. She herself is in fact hearing impaired.
“As someone with deafness, I’m incredibly passionate about captioning. It’s part of my daily toolkit of accommodations I use to navigate my day in addition to my wonderful American Sign Language interpreters.”
This update will allow users to see real time transcriptions of the person they are communicating with. The spoken words will appear on screen either in the same language, or in the user’s language of preference. Turning these options on and off is easy, and Skype has a help option to walk users through the process. In the next few weeks, Skype plans to roll out translation support for more than 20 languages and dialects, according to Lay-Flurrie. These captioning services are powered by Microsoft’s artificial intelligence research.
All of this is happening in the wake of Skype’s recent recognition of the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Other features which users may find beneficial in Office 365 include expanded availability of automatic closed captions and searchable transcriptions for videos via Microsoft Stream and enhancements to the Office 365 Accessibility Checker.
According to the World Health Organization, over five percent of the world’s entire population, equating to 466 million people, have disabled hearing loss. The breakdown is 432 million adults and 34 million children. The World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2050, over 900 million people, which is one in every ten, will have disabled hearing loss. With figures and estimates such as these, it is just another reason for companies such as Skype to begin implementing more inclusive features and options for their consumer base and the world’s population. 121 Captions listed out options for the hearing impaired who seek out cinema access and other services that are not always user friendly.