As governments take more and more of their services online, ensuring that citizens with special requirements are not left behind or excluded is critical. Sometimes, simple applications of available technology can serve go a long way. A few days ago, Service NSW announced a slew of initiatives for improving access for the hearing impaired. Service NSW provides a “one‑stop shop” for citizens transacting with government, offering a range of services from the state government in New South Wales ,such as motor vehicle registration, driver license renewals, marriage certificates, fishing licenses, national park passes and more.
Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Dominic Perrottet and Minister for Disability Services, John Ajaka made the announcement. Mr Perrottet said, “Customers remain at the heart of everything that Service NSW does, and we are continuing to improve the customer experience for all people in NSW.”
The technology solutions introduced are:
- Hearing loops – Directed towards customers with hearing aids, the hearing loop is a cost-effective and inconspicuous way to cut out unwated background noise, allowing the customer to focus on the conversation and transaction. It consists of a microphone to pick up the speech, an amplifier which processes the signal, which is then sent through the, the loop cable, a wire placed around the perimeter of a specific area i.e. a meeting room, a church, a service counter etc to act as an antenna that radiates the magnetic signal to the hearing aid.
- Remote live captioning – Hearing impaired customers, who can speak but cannot hear, can speak over the phone or internet to a Service Centre staff member. A transcriber will type the replies from the staff members for the customers to read, facilitating the conversations.
- Remote Auslan interpreting – The Australian Sign Language or Auslan is the officially recognised sign language for the Australian Deaf Community. An interpreting service for Auslan will be offered. There a provisions for remote interpreting. An Auslan interpreter can be connected to an online video chat, via a laptop. The interpreter can sign to the customer and speak verbally to the Service Centre staff.
These technologies build on accessibility features already in place across the Service NSW network, in store and online, to assist those with special access requirements.
Remote Auslan interpreting and live captioning will be rolled out in December, starting with 6 sites, Parramatta, Blacktown, Liverpool, Newcastle, Wollongong and Tweed Heads. Hearing loops will be made available at Parramatta and Blacktown in December. There are plans to expand the use of the technology to up to 80 locations by around mid-2017.
Media release: New accessibility tech coming to Service NSW