Tuesday, 06 December 2011 10:15

ACE Taps Into Twitter to Help Deaf and Hearing Impaired Acess Critical Information

By Karen Bayley

Revolutionary and potentially life-saving technology has won a prominent Telstra Innovation Challenge Award today.

Australian Communication Exchange (ACE) has developed Silent Tweets, a free smartphone application as a visual alert system equivalent to audio broadcast.

This text-based broadcasting system will circulate emergency warning notifications such as building evacuations or disaster announcements to users within a certain geographical area for the time period relevant to the message.

The app will allow individuals and organisations to post critical messages which could be life-saving.

Carolyn Kilpatrick, a member of the Consumer Advisory Group for ACE, said 'I got a sneak preview of Silent Tweets. I thought it was such a great tool for staying informed! I know some horror stories where people who are Deaf or hearing impaired haven't heard the audio announcement of a gate change and have gotten onto the wrong plane as a result.'

Silent Tweets, which is designed on both the iPhone and Android platforms, has broad-reaching ramifications for this group of people, as the common audio or radio announcement is not an accessible way to receive public notifications.

'We're proud to have our innovative approach to supporting community needs recognised through the Telstra Innovation Awards,' said ACE Chief Executive Officer, Sandy Gilliland.

ACE expects that the take-up of this app will be widespread, with over 50 large-scale organisations contributing updates and up to 1000 daily posts by the community. In addition to emergency notifications, public broadcasts will include up-to-date information on traffic congestion, dangerous weather, or alerts at public places like train stations or sporting events previously communicated by audio.

'The application is a compelling idea for the Deaf and hearing impaired community as it provides functionally equivalent access to the range of audio messages and announcements that the hearing community enjoy.The idea makes novel use of emerging and existing telecommunication technologies such as wireless, location-based services, smartphones and the community's desire to communicate with each other,' Mr Gilliland said.

The Silent Tweets app will be available free of charge from the App store mid-January 2012 to coincide with the Australian Deaf Games in Geelong.

Organisations and hearing individuals can assist the Deaf and hearing impaired community to access critical information by broadcasting posts via Silent Tweets.

ACE recently launched another groundbreaking product called Smart Auslan in the first tourist attraction in Australia, the historic Chaffey Trail in Mildura, Victoria.

This key heritage trail allows Deaf and hearing impaired people to access information about the 9 tourist locations in captioned Australian sign language (Auslan) videos.

ACE is committed to achieving accessibility in communication for people who are Deaf and hearing impaired.

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