An audience of politicians, civil servants, educators, charities and businesses met in the House of Lords on 3 December to learn about some of the innovative technology that is making education and employment increasingly accessible for deaf people.
Organised by Ai-Media and Signature, the event was hosted by Baroness Uddin and Stephen Lloyd MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness. Dame Anne Begg, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, also attended.
The audience heard from Beth Abbott, General Manager of Ai-Media, which provides captioning; Tony Murphy, Wireless Communications Specialist for hearing aid manufacturer Phonak UK; and Jeff McWhinney, Founder and Chair of the SignVideo relay service.
Jim Edwards, chief executive of Signature, said: “The evening was an opportunity for the likes of the Department for Work and Pensions and The Open University to learn about the technology that is enabling deaf people to fulfil their potential.
“The increasing availability and affordability of high speed internet, smart phones, tablets and high spec laptops has been a game changer for people who need support to access English. And entrepreneurs have responded. One of the main messages from the evening was these technologies are just going to get better.
“Of course, whilst it is transformational, technology doesn’t work for everyone in every situation. There are times when nothing can replace having a communication and language professional in the room.
“Which is why it's important a deaf person, their employer or educator understands the choices open to them. And why Signature is working with government to increase the supply of sign language interpreters and other professionals.”
Beth Abbott, General Manager of Ai-Media said: “This event was an excellent showcase of the momentum and support for new technology that is radically expanding the ways in which deaf people can access communication support.
“Traditionally that support has been provided in written English or British Sign Language by a communication and language professional on site. By enabling them to access professionals remotely via online platforms, deaf people can now work and study like never before.
“And our expert panel and audience created a great forum for discussion, particularly around the issues of awareness, knowledge and the need for funders, such as Access to Work and universities, to support these innovations.”
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