Recap: The 6th DeafIT Conference
March 2020: We were already looking forward to it – the DeafIT, the IT conference with a focus on the needs of hearing-impaired people, is about to start. As an accessibility sponsor, EVE was supposed to subtitle the speeches in English. But then the entire event was canceled at short notice due to the Corona crisis. The organizers decided to postpone the conference and make it an online-only event this year. Barrier-free accessibility did not suffer one bit – quite the opposite.
Virtual for the first time
12.03.2021, half-past eight in the morning: The 6th DeafIT conference is about to start. Annika, our partner manager, is already sitting at her desk – at home, of course. At the moment, everything still takes place digitally, including the DeafIT. At a little after nine, Nicole Weißkopf, one of the organizers, opens the conference by welcoming the participants.
We were able to introduce EVE right at the beginning, so that conference participants know how to use the subtitles and the translation function. EVE provided translations of the live captions on both days of the conference. Nicole Weißkopf finishes her welcome speech, and Annika takes her turn. But it wouldn’t be the first day in an online conference if everything worked. First, we don’t hear Annika – the technology is on strike. Even for the experienced organizers of the DeafIT, this year was a change.
DeafIT: Exchange of the IT sector
The conference has been organized and hosted by the independent DeafIT team voluntarily since 2014. The team is aligned with the Deaf Association Munich and Surrounding Area e.V. (GMU). As the name already implies, the thematic focus of the conference lies on the current topics of information technology. On both days of the conference, there will be lectures and workshops on IT, primarily aimed at people with hearing impairments.
The participants and speakers are not only from German-speaking countries. The organizers’ team wants to create a cross-border network for the “deaf, hard of hearing, CI-wearing, hearing, young and old,” which enables them to exchange ideas. Specialist knowledge is imparted, ideas are discussed, and professional development is promoted – even across national borders.
“There should be the least barrier education and information event, especially for Sign language user, the Hearing impaired, and hearing IT professionals.” – DeafIT.org
Approximately 16 million hearing impaired and 80,000 deaf people live in Germany (source: https://www.gehoerlosen-bund.de/faq/geh%C3%B6rlosigkeit, 22.03.2021). But hardly any conference offers its program barrier-free. Deaf and hard of hearing participants at conferences often have to take care of accessibility measures themselves, such as live subtitles or sign language interpreters. That is why accessibility, diversity, and inclusion are at the forefront of the DeafIT: no one should be excluded. The conference is accessible in sign, written, and spoken language. This year, EVE was responsible for translating captions so that not only German-speaking participants could follow the lectures.
Accessible and inclusive
EVE provided the English and Spanish translations of the live subtitles for the presentations on both conference days. In addition to EVE, a team of sign language interpreters and the written interpreting service Kombia were also involved. For lectures in English, only EVE provided the subtitles. Despite the initial technical difficulties, the rest of the conference went very well for EVE.
The DeafIT convinced with its low-barrier program and the enthusiasm with which the participants followed the presentations. Annika presented EVE to the virtual audience in a keynote speech on the first day of the conference. The subsequent exchange with the audience in the live chat showed how great the interest was.
Among the other speakers were employees of big names like Google, but most speakers represented smaller companies with a wide variety of ideas and visions. deep electronics GmbH, for example, develops portable body subwoofers. With these, deaf people can perceive music via bass with their bodies. In this way, deep electronics GmbH counters the misconception that “deaf people are incapable of experiencing the joy of music” with their innovation.
The SIGNS project is working on making it possible to operate voice assistants such as Alexa or Siri using sign language. With the help of cameras, SIGNS recognizes gestures, converts them into a data format that the assistant understands – another important contribution to accessibility in the digital world.
More of this
The DeafIt is probably a rarity in the conference world at this point with its low barrier program. Sign language interpreters and live subtitles allow people with hearing disabilities to access important and interesting information about their industry. People with disabilities are represented in all areas of the world of work. Why not also give them access to all areas to get important information about their occupational fields? Why exclude people who do not speak German, even though innovations are being created worldwide to help people? DeafIT has shown what is already possible and how it works: The supposed “magic words” are accessibility, inclusion, and diversity.
Would you also like to make your next (online) conference more accessible? Write us a message, and we will help you to plan suitable captions!