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The Talking(Speech technology enabled) Form Services for Blind, Visually Impaired or Agraphic Persons of Nepal

We will allow visually disabled people to access Government Information and Services via audio contents and fill forms using their voices.

Photo of Sagun Dhakhwa
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What problem does your idea solve?

Visually disabled people are left to live in stigma in Nepal where they are dependent to access government information and services. There is no government support so far to even file a request form for services like citizenship certificate. Privacy is a serious issue, as they have to rely on a mediator to answer even private form-questions. Our idea will solve this problem by giving access to the information and form contents in audio and allowing persons to orally fill and file the forms.

Explain your idea

Government offices of Nepal are yet to support blind or visually impaired citizens. Most of information and request forms for the government services are paper based and have no braille support. There is a growing trend to digitize these forms but still lack accessibility. Filling these forms is extremely time consuming if one relies on accessibility support in the computers; however most of the blinds have no computer skills. In both cases, a disabled person has to rely on someone to get information and fill the forms. Our idea is to solve this problem by building a enclosed kiosk which provides information in a richly formatted (easy to navigate) audio contents and allows users to use voice to fill a form. The kiosk will contain a headphone, a microphone, a special remote controller with a biometric sensor, a printer, an Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) software and a touch screen (optional for normal users). We will also make a companion mobile-app which has the same functionality and can be connected to a printer. When audio inputs are given to the forms, the ASR software automatically converts the voice into text. Screen readers in the form will help to review the inputs. The user can then confirm the submission by providing a finger print. The system will respond with a confirmation code in audio and braille printouts on a card with a barcarole. The card or the confirmation code can be used to check the status later on the same kiosk or the mobile-app.

Who benefits?

In 2011 Nepal Census, 513,321 individuals reported having “some kind of disability,” of which almost 100,000 were blind. There has been no fresher census in the country but with an annual 1.24% growth in population, we can expect at least 107674 people to have partial or complete blindness by 2017. If we implement the Audio Form Services in all the federal, state and local levels, all of them will directly benefit of which the youth will mostly benefit as they will seek services more.

How is your idea unique?

We have no information on similar technologies being used elsewhere and the nearest competitor would be a company that produces audio books and contents. There are also applications like SIRI in iPhones however they are not available in Nepali. In 2007, I had been working in Access to Computers for Non-Literate People project (ACNLP) which was related to audio enabled User Interfaces and audio content visualization of speech into sentences and paragraphs in Nepali. The proposed speech technology enabled forms will, however, be quite different than ACNLP as it will be dealing with a formal government form and audio inputs. Current speech API support in most of the modern browsers will also make the development faster and implementation straight forward. Speech API or commercial Speech technology is not yet available in the Nepali; so we believe, that after the success of this project, a new paradigm to digital contents and digital forms will globally open.

Tell us more about you

We are an IT research and development company comprising of individuals with a lot of experience in software and mobile app development, Interaction Design and Speech processing. We work a lot with government, universities and tourism sector. Apart from commercial projects, we also do a lot of community-based projects. We had recently been awarded a grant by the World Bank to work on urban poverty alleviation of the Patan City using IT and local Tourism at UNESCO World Heritage sites of Patan.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

We feel that we will need to test out Automatic Speech Recognition(ASR) in Nepali Language using Sphinx4 library which is the most promising library for ASR. Though we had already done some experiments in Sphinx3 with Nepali a few years ago, there are a lot of modifications in Sphinx4 and we will need to vigorously train and test the ASR system before we can use the speech technology enabled forms to be used by the public. Also, though we work a lot with the Government of Nepal, we will still need to convince a lot of officials before we can deploy the system to the government offices. The system may also be applied to the private sector, however, we are unsure on who will pay the costs in that case.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Nepal

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are a registered for-profit company (including social enterprises).

Idea Maturity

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

After the feedback from OpenIDEO, we decided to follow the WCAG2.0 guidelines as far as possible. However, we want to focus on usability of the system for users even for those who are new to the digital machines. Hence, we will not use TTS as they don't sound natural and format audio contents in natural speech. After the user feedbacks, we found that one of the biggest concerns the users have was related to privacy when users answer to the machine. They said that they were embarrassed to share their personal details in front of a third person even if he/she is a friend. We have thus decided to enclose the kiosk in a sound proof booth so that the user can feel free to answer the personal questions. We realized that making the users awareness of technology is more important than making a technology. Hence we have decided to promote and advocate about the solution in any ways possible. Inside the offices, we have decided to use Tactile pavements to give directions to the kiosks.

Who will implement this idea?

Sagun Dhakhwa will be responsible for managing team, designing and creating the solution. Tina Rajbhandari (Resource Manager) will be responsible for outreach, management of resources and logistics. There will have 5 supporting staffs : 1 Speech Technology Expert, 2 Software, 1 hardware, 1 UX/ Sound Engineer. The team will be located in the Kathmandu Valley and will travel when needed. The blind association of Nepal will be responsible for advocacy and lobbying with the government.

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

In our organization, we focus mainly on the usability of the products and found that human-centered design improves usability. We have seen the potential of human-centered design approach after using it a bit for this challenge. Using the prototypes and User Experience Map, we could unveil many features and design decisions which we wouldn't have found else. Our organization has already decided to adopt HCD in future projects. To implement it, we are going to organize formal trainings for the design team on the new design process in coming months. We have a vibrant design team where people come from multimedia, fine arts, IT and graphic design background. The training will not just be about the process but the benefits and potentials it has. It will be also bring them on board to HCD

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

We were attracted to Amplify because it gives us is a chance to make a difference while learning new methods, tools and ideas. It also gives us an opportunity to learn from other's solutions and the chance to collaborate with them. It helped us to test, get feedbacks, improve and grow and above all test our potentials. The experience of the whole challenge was engaging, rewarding and fun, that is why we are continuing to participate in the challenge.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

On a day-to-day level, visually disabled users have to get help from others for any kind of legal processes. Whether it is a citizenship application, bank transaction or property transfer, legally, they have to be accompanied by a normal person in order to do a transaction. There is no privacy and sense of independence for them. The biggest and critical system-level challenge will be the Nepali Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR). There is no Nepali ASR available and we are trying to customize Sphinx CMU, an open source ASR in Java, for Nepali. A Hindi language model is already available for Sphinx and since Nepali is very close to Hindi, we are confident that we will be able to create a language model for Nepali. ASR will be the most critical part that will affect the end-users.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

IMPACT: By 2022, we aim to implement Talking Form Application for Citizenship Certificate Application in all the 75 Citizenship Offices in Nepal, which will benefit more than 120000 blind and visually impaired persons in the country. QUESTION: How do we convince and lobby with the government, political parties, civil societies and human right organizations to implement Talking Form for Citizenship Certificate Application and How do we legalize audio inputs as equivalent to inputs in writing?

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • Less than 6 months

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • Under 5 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $50,000 and $100,000 USD

If your team/idea/organization has a website, please share the URL below.

http://outlines-rnd.com https://www.facebook.com/OutlinesRND/ https://www.facebook.com/patanheritagewalk/
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Team (3)

Sagun's profile
IMemyself's profile
IMemyself Tina

Role added on team:

"She is a resource manager in the team. She will be responsible for collaborating with the Association of Blind Nepal and she will managing test sessions for feedbacks. She will be also managing resources and logistics."

alisha's profile
alisha shakya

Role added on team:

"She is responsible for doing all the graphic design and UI design works. She is also helping the team with audio menu."

Attachments (1)

sketch.pdf

This is a short story board of use case of The Talking Forms.

69 comments

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Photo of IMemyself Tina
Team

I feel proud to be a part of such a dedicated and passionate team. It was a great experience of learning new things already while meeting visually impaired and blind people and knowing about their day to day problem during our research for this project. This has already been a unforgettable experience for me and also inspiring to contribute towards community. Thank you Nepal Asscociation of the Blind (NAB) for your cooperation and constructive feedback . I would like to thank everyone from NAB who participated on our interview and feedback session. Thank you Bikesh Shrestha from Balkhu, Kathmandu for your opinion as a user point of view. Your energy, friendliness and involvement inspired our team more. Great work team and all the best! It has always been a pleasure to work with such a positive attitude and yes we are here to make things happen.

Photo of Sagun Dhakhwa
Team

Thanks Tina for corresponding with the Nepal Association of Blind and other potential Blind users. The prototype testing sessions were just the great method to come up with better ideas to solve the problem in this iteration. The people at NAB were just fantastic. We need to do one more round of testing of the new version of prototype with them.

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