Why I oppose sign language gloves

A few days ago, I was tagged by my deaf friends and my Facebook feeds have been bombarded by this “breakthrough” invention of five electrical engineering students of Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges. They invented gloves that can “convert the Filipino Sign Language into audible words.” Major Philippine media news and print outlets picked up the students’ Facebook post and made news about it here, here, and here. This digital media outlet even headlined it as, “Amazing is an understatement”.

For clearer context, here is the news video.

Although I doubt that this is considered as a “breakthrough” because other countries have already invented this like the one made by UCLA, The University of Washington, and a group of Ukrainian students, I greatly laud the efforts they made and am so proud of them simply because they are Filipinos!

However, I am not amazed, not even impressed.

I have been one of the IT consultants of the National Council on Disability Affairs and the then National Computer Center now the Department of Information and Communications Technology on matters related to assistive technologies for Persons With Disabilities since 2007. I have also conducted more than 25 seminars, workshops, and training related to accessible web technologies to the government and private sector as president of the Philippine Web Accessibility Group. I even made a country presentation in India for ASEAN highlighting the progress we made in assistive technologies many years ago. So I humbly consider myself as an expert in this field.

I totally get why this is an amazing concept. To be able to slip on gloves that provide you the communication between deaf and hearing is remarkable. It’s awesome that technology has gotten to where it’s at today. You may believe it’s pretty cool if you don’t know much about being deaf or hard of hearing or what’s in its community.

In this case, the proponents of this technology must first resolve these important accessibility and usability issues:

1. Can it solve the communication problem of the deaf user?

This device is a one-way street. Suppose, a deaf person wears this and “talks” to his hearing receiver.  Since he cannot hear, how can the deaf know that what he “talked” was right? Assuming that the words it says were right, the person he is talking to now understands what the deaf is saying. Then what? Can the receiver respond by talking or by signing too? Since the hearing person does not know sign language, how can he talk back?

The gloves also do not respond to sign language. It responds only to words that were assigned to gestures.

2. Is it comfortable for the user?

Wearing gloves no matter how useful they are, is not comfortable. Can you sign and eat at the same time while wearing it? Can you do other things or move around while wearing it? Is it safe? Better yet, are you happy wearing those silly gloves?

Remember the failure of Google Glass in matters of safety and privacy issues?

google glass as worn by a model
Google Glass

3. Were the users consulted?

In the news interview, Francis Anthony De Guzman, the Team Leader was asked about the purpose of designing the gloves. He replied that their invention will be “for personal use of the deaf community”. Really? Did they make at least an initiative of interviewing members of the deaf community if they will use it? Will it be used by those whom it is intended to? If so, what are their responses?

There is a thriving group of mostly Filipino Deaf on Facebook. The private “Invite-only” group has nearly 8,500 members, the biggest among the deaf community in the Philippines. According to their About Page, the Filipino Deaf vloggers: Feed, Awareness and Openness Group (FDVFAO) is composed of people “supporting Filipino Deaf community in raising awareness and openness such as accessibility information, Deaf access, Deaf rights, Deaf jobs, Deaf education and many more. Deaf people become a better individual and become an inspiration to our community as well to strive for excellence.” One of its admin, Aldrin Gabriel, my former deaf student, personally invited me to join.

After learning about this invention and went viral within the community, the majority of the deaf members disagree with this. Here are some of their sentiments.

No need technology hand for sign language. Must communicate with Deaf and hearing (face to face) even good learning how it communicate also grammar.

 yeah, it’s just test. If propose to PFD [Philippine Federation of the Deaf], not approve by PFD.
Bye gloves technology!

Hearing no respect deaf. Why hearing technology hand sign language. Tsk.

Best is natural than gloves so just pray that community Deaf stronger disagree away the gloves sign language technology

They even reposted this cute video of a deaf child actress Shaylee Mansfield wearing the glove to express their disagreement:

4. Can it accurately convey the message of the user?

According to the inventors, this gadget uses “Filipino Sign Language”. Do they understand the complexity of a language, more so a “sign language”?

Sign language is a visual language. It uses three communication tools to express concepts: the two hands, the upper body, and the face. Also, every sign you do has specific locations, directions, and movements. When you speak, you only use your tongue to convey a concept. Therefore, gloves alone cannot translate sign language because you need the face and the locations of where the signs are going next to your body. It is too complex. Sign language is a three-dimensional language and is not a written language. It cannot be programmed into a pair of gloves.

Here is another video blog post of JP Batadlan, another famous young deaf vlogger with nearly 7,000 Facebook followers which clearly expresses the sentiments of nearly all the Filipino deaf community.

Notice that these four questions have a common context, the “user“. You cannot simply say that this gadget or that medicine or this technology is useful to the user without first including the user in the loop. You cannot dictate to the user what is useful for them and what is not. Otherwise, they won’t use it, and it would eventually become useless.

Still, many people who have barely minimum knowledge about the needs of the deaf community argued that this will be of great help to them. One even defended it by saying,

You are missing the point… this invention is not meant to insult or undermine the deaf. This will make it easier for people who don’t know sign language to understand them and it will even make it easier to teach sign language to others. It will be easier to communicate with the deaf.

Upon careful analysis of this defender’s argument, he is the one entirely missing the point. He is only after the convenience of those who “don’t know sign language” and NOT the people who actually use the language. So he affirms that this gadget is basically designed with the hearing people in mind and not the deaf person.

Is there a better way of communicating with the deaf? Yes! LEARN SIGN LANGUAGE!

I agree with the majority of the Filipino Deaf community’s sentiments that using sign language gloves is not the solution to their communication concern. Still, a salute is in order. So, congratulations to the Team of Francis Anthony De Guzman!!!

I leave this blog post with a tweet made by Jon Urquhart, a Child of a Deaf Adult (CODA), which altogether sums it all. Cheers!

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Want a cheap yet reliable webhosting? Try Hostinger!

I have been designing websites since 1997. During my early web designing years, I dabble only with popular free hosting sites back then like Geocities and Tripod, both of which are still existing as archive pages. Self-hosted websites were very expensive during those times.

Then in early 2000, I started paying shared hosted providers from companies that offer locally. I understand that most of them are just resellers of international hosting sites because I often receive warnings of “unusual bandwidth activity” and upload slowdowns due to the overwhelming of their systems even though I was only updating my websites in active mode. These experiences were very frustrating on top of that having a super slow internet connection.

By the mid-2000s, after learning WordPress and advocating for accessible websites, I started looking for international web hosting providers. GoDaddy was aggressively promoted here in the Philippines thru TV Ads and the like. But the price was in USD which is so expensive. SiteGround was another viable option because the price is a little less compared to GoDaddy. But still, it’s too prohibitive. Then in 2014, I tried Ionos by 1&1, a German-based hosting provider. At first, it was very enticing because you only pay $1 for one year (Php50 in Philippine currency which I paid a little over Php500 due to currency conversion, taxes, etc.) But after a year, I decided to look for a new provider since the Ionos renewal will be USD10/month or USD120/year (roughly Php6,000).

hostingerjojoEnter, Hostinger, a Lithuanian-based company. I started getting their service in 2019 although I have tried using their site in 2013 via their free 000webhost.com. I won’t be doing an in-depth review about their performance and features because they’ve already done that here, here and even comparing it with Ionos here, and here. All of these review sites gave very high recommendations for Hostinger. What I would do is to list down my personal experience in using Hostinger service and how I definitely would give this a “two-thumbs up” recommendation. Here they are

1. Insanely Low Price

Hostinger.com has a dedicated Philippine site Hostinger.Ph. Although they are just identical sites when it comes to content and features, the price range is very different. The first thing why I was enticed to get Hostinger as my web hosting company is because of their localized site approach. The web hosting plan is already converted to our Philippine currency (Pesos). This proves to be very attractive especially if I will market this to our Philippine customers. Converted to pesos, the price per plan is relatively cheap compared to other web hosting companies offering local currency.

hostingerusprice

hostingerpriceph

If you compare the two prices above and focus on the Single Web Hosting, the identical features offer a different price when converted. At Php 50 = $1 exchange rate,

$0.99/month x 12 months = $11.88 x Php 50 = Php 594

Php35 x 12 months = Php 420

You’ll get a discount of Php 174 or $3.48

The discount is even insanely huge when you renew their service. $2.99 x 12 x 50 = Php1,794 <=> Php79 x 12 = Php 948 for a discount of Php 846 or $16.92! That’s a lot of money for us Filipinos!

UPDATE AS OF March 1, 2021: The MONTHLY PRICE has been INCREASED TO Php 49.00. So the discount has been reduced to Php 6.00. I don’t know why they increased it. Probably because of this blog. (sigh)

2. Outstanding Support Team

hostingercustomerserviceI currently maintain six sites; the official websites of Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf (mccid.edu.ph), MCCID Online Courses (mccid.edu.ph/online), Philippine Web Accessibility Group (pwag.org), Mark 737 Design and Prints (mark737.com), God’s Grace Overflowing Private Pool (godsgraceoverflowing.com) and MCCIDONLINE.NET. Before Hostinger, all of the websites were hosted on four different providers. After getting the hang of their service, I decided to migrate all of the sites under their server. I even transferred the domain names of MARK 737 and PWAG to Hostinger.

But migrating sites would always entail issues. I’ve had a huge one with pwag.org. The previous domain registrar is giving me a hard time transferring the site. Fortunately, Hostinger Customer Service gave me a walk-through of the process. Also, the email address of mccid.edu.ph is freely hosted by Google under the Google Apps for Education service, now Google Workspace for Education. I’m having difficulty connecting their service to Google. Fortunately again, they assisted me in changing my MX Records and pointing me to links to Google Services.

I also find this response very nice. Emily, the CS Operator, when she felt that her reply is taking a bit long, assured me that,

If you need to be away from your device, don’t you worry. We’ll email you the reply.

Also another cute Signature Comment I received,

P.S. To make my life easier, so I can make your life easier, please include your domain name blush

Btw, they emailed me the conversation notes as soon as we completed the interaction that’s why I was able to save their replies.

3. Incredibly Fast

I don’t need to put some performance metrics and bandwidth speed test measurements here. Take my word for it. Their servers are very fast with no downtime!

4. Everything Unlimited!

I selected their Premium Shared Webhosting Plan so I am currently receiving:

  • UNLIMITED BANDWIDTH
  • UNLIMITED DATABASES
  • UNLIMITED FTP ACCOUNTS
  • “UNLIMITED” WEBSITES – Well, I consider 100 as already unlimited because why would you store 100 websites on one account?
  • “UNLIMITED” SUBDOMAINS – Again, 100 subdomains are almost unlimited.
  • “UNLIMITED” TRAFFIC – Their service says, 25,000 visits/month. But it’s not a restriction but merely a point of reference. It depends on how you optimize your website and resource usage.

They even threw in these freebies!

  • FREE SSL CERTIFICATE
  • FREE DOMAIN FOR ONE YEAR
  • FREE GOOGLE ADS CREDIT
  • FREE WEEKLY BACKUPS
  • FREE EMAIL

5. User-Friendly Dashboard

Ah, the CPanel Webhosting Control Panel. Sorry! Hostinger does not have one. Instead, they have an even better and more user-friendly dashboard where you can find everything you need in one location. In it, you can track logins, update billing information, manage your domains, and monitor emails from your dashboard. The control panel isn’t a traditional cPanel, but large icons make it simple to find exactly what you need and when you need it.

6. Affiliate Offerings

Welcome to the Hostinger Affiliate Family
Welcome Email Image Sent by Hostinger.com

Oh yes, they do have. And I am a bona fide Hostinger Philippine Affiliate Partner! It’s easy to apply and I already included the link to all our YouTube videos, websites, and Facebook posts. I converted my Affiliate link to redirect to Hostinger.ph site.

After a long search, I believe I have finally found the ONE for me. One that will hopefully be “for keeps“. 😉

Note: All screenshot images and links that appear here are owned by Hostinger.Com.

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Infinix Hot 10 Play Unboxing in Sign Language

Unboxings and first tries by many video bloggers have been flourishing on many social media sites. Some of them became famous and have earned respect from other people due to their in-depth and creative insights about the gadgets that they explain to the public. Some became “experts” in these fields. They help us make wiser decisions whether we purchase them or not by making them “try first before we buy“.

Now, what about the deaf community? I am not aware of anyone from the sector who tried this. I tried googling it and found no one even in the international scene. I hope, our Filipino deaf can start the trend.

So without much fanfare, may I introduce you to the second unboxing of a smartphone by our deaf student, Kennel Alonzo… He will be explaining first hand Infinix Hot 10 Play, the latest budget phone of Infinix Mobile, a Hongkong based smartphone company . Launched last January 23, this phone was unboxed, tested, and reviewed. This YouTube video is shorter (more than 6 minutes) than the first one, yet packed a more complete information including sample camera photos and video tests.

Here it is:

Subtitle is already embedded while the voice is in our local Tagalog language. Still, Kennel signs using Filipino Sign Language.

To all my blog subscribers, please support our deaf video bloggers by watching this video and sharing it to your friends. To watch the first unboxing video, you may go to my blog link below.

Unboxing of a gadget the Deaf Way

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Support us by clicking on the link to HOSTINGER.PH, the company hosting our websites ►► https://bit.ly/3h14XnU

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Hope you all like it! Cheers!

AI can turn spoken language into photorealistic sign language videos

Image from NewScientist

Newscientist website published an article regarding an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that “can produce photorealistic videos of sign language interpreters from speech could improve accessibility by removing the need for humans.”

According to the site, Ben Saunders at the University of Surrey, UK, and his colleagues used a neural network that converts spoken language into sign language. The system, called SignGAN, then maps these signs on to a 3D model of the human skeleton.

Although I consider this as a very remarkable development in AI, this technology may still be far off due to many aspects that need to be considered such as language idiosyncrasy, facial expression and idiomatic peculiarities. But what really worries me is my fear of eventually “removing the need for sign language interpreters.

Still this development is a step in the right direction. We cannot prevent advancement of technologies unless we suppress science. You may view the entire news article by clicking on the link below.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2261113-ai-can-turn-spoken-language-into-photorealistic-sign-language-videos/

Note: The website is a paid site. You need to subscribe to get unlimited access. 🙂

Support us by clicking on the link to HOSTINGER.PH, the company hosting our websites ►► https://bit.ly/3h14XnU

Refer a friend, you’ll both earn credits. WordPress.com makes it easy for you to start your own blog. Click on this link to find out how. ►► https://wordpress.com/refer-a-friend/pxN7b2vUpgrjmp4gl6vp

Unboxing of a gadget the deaf way

You’ve seen many unboxing videos of the latest mobile phones and other gadgets. But have you seen one being explained by a deaf person and in sign language? Well, here it is!

For the first time, our school Manila Christian Computer Institute for the Deaf ventured into an Unboxing Video blog of a cellphone! Introducing the new player in town, Tecno Mobile. They started selling in the Philippines only this August 2020.

Check out our unboxing and first look of Tecno Mobile Spark 5 Pro as explained in SIGN LANGUAGE! This is especially dedicated to our Filipino Deaf community so that they can have access to the latest gadgets explained in their own language. However, an English voice interpreting is included for the general public. Our resident deaf Kennel Alonzo did the signing.

We’re on PATREON now! Join the community ►► https://www.patreon.com/mccid

Like and Follow our Facebook page here ►► https://www.fb.com/mccidcollege

Support us by clicking on the link to HOSTINGER.PH, the company hosting our websites ►► https://bit.ly/3h14XnU

Refer a friend, you’ll both earn credits. WordPress.com makes it easy for you to start your own blog. Click on this link to find out how. ►► https://wordpress.com/refer-a-friend/pxN7b2vUpgrjmp4gl6vp

Hope you all like it! Cheers!

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