Help for deaf Aussies now only a click away

26 October 2015

More than 1.5 million deaf and hard of hearing Australians who face communication barriers are unaware that new technology could dramatically improve their situation. However, the launch of a unique new website by national non-profit organisation Conexu Foundation may enable them to communicate more will provide a one-stop hub for people who are Deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired to learn about new technology and discover from experts and their peers what products may best help them. Conexu Chief Strategy Officer Rachel McKay said one in six Australians is affected by hearing loss but surveys show half of them are unaware of the myriad tech products and communication tools that could help – or are simply overwhelmed by the constantly evolving technology now available.“Difficulties in communicating can affect every aspect of a person’s life – learning, working and socialising,” Ms McKay said.“We’ve spoken to many people who’ve said technology can make an amazing difference but our research has shown many are unaware of what is available or unsure how it might help. “Because we have relationships with experts at the cutting edge of technology around the world, we can provide the latest information.“The website was designed to respond to what people told us was important for them day to day. I urge people to log on, have a look and share their experience with others, as it might change lives.”

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High-tech makeover for Hermitage masterpieces

14 September 2015

The art collection of Catherine the Great has been gilded by modern technology at The National Gallery of Victoria, with the Deaf and hearing impaired now able to fully experience some of the world’s greatest artworks.Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great will be supported by Conexu’s OpenAccess Tours app for smart devices, giving users access to a variety of Auslan videos and captions for each artwork.Conexu Chief Strategy Officer Rachel McKay said that making commentary accessible to the Deaf and hearing impaired gave their appreciation of the artworks an extra dimension. “For the one in six Australians affected by hearing loss, it can be difficult to follow an audio tour or guided commentary,” Ms McKay said. “While they can still view and enjoy the artwork, they haven’t had immediate access to extra information about it.

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Darwin exhibition opens eyes and minds

20 July 2015

For the first time in the Northern Territory, people who are deaf or blind have the opportunity to access the detailed descriptions that bring an exhibition to life.The Unfinished Business exhibition by Sydney-based photographer Belinda Mason reveals the untold stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability, with the content also provided in sign language, audio description and captions.Ms Mason said she hoped the stories about the struggle for many Indigenous Australians with a disability, would strike a chord.“Without stories there is silence, without stories told we are voiceless. Without our stories heard, we are invisible,” Ms Mason said.

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Technology paving the way for those who need to be seen and heard

24 June 2015

58 year old Stephen Hallinan was born hearing impaired and his vision began to deteriorate at the age of 10. He was totally blind by the age of 38.The Newcastle resident’s only way of communicating was with hearing aids but, as his sight deteriorated, he realised he had been relying on lip reading to understand what people were saying. Stephen is now one of only five people in the world participating in a trial of a braille telephone system (CapTel) and he is telling his story for Deafblind Awareness Week

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World-first trial a breakthrough for deafblind Australians

18 May 2015

Victorian woman Michelle Stevens became the first Deafblind Australian to make a telephone call using innovative caption-to-braille technology today. The CapTel (captioned telephone) handset paired with a braille display allows people who are deaf and have no/low vision to speak on the phone and read the response. Ms Stevens talked with her sister using the service. “Having phone conversations with friends and calling my university – using my voice – will be fantastic” Ms Stevens said. “The deaf blind community will find it really valuable, especially the many older blind people who are losing their hearing; I think it will make a huge difference to their lives and save a lot of time.” Braille CapTel is being trialled in three states by the national non-profit organisation Conexu, which promotes communications technology for deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired people.

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Fun and flicks pose a challenge for deaf Australians 

20 March 2015

A survey has revealed the toughest communication challenges for millions of Australians who are Deaf or hard of hearing. At the top of the list: going to social functions, going to the movies or theatre, and dealing with banks and bureaucracy. The survey* by the national non-profit organisation Conexu found about one-third of respondents did not participate in social activities or felt a social divide at work because of communication challenges.Conexu Chief Strategy Officer Rachel McKay said the survey showed that more needs to be done to level the playing field for people who can't hear. 

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Opening access to arts and culture around Australia

10 Mar 2015  

Interview with Tony Bennetts, Conexu, about the apps his organisation creates to assist people with hearing impairments.  Bennetts says mobile phone devices allow individuals to find new solutions to problems which may have only been addressed by multi-nationals in the past. Bennetts explains that museums and galleries around Australia are working with Conexu, including the National Gallery of Victoria, to assist visitors with visual as well as hearing problems - whose communication needs can differ. The museum apps have been downloaded more than 7,000 times in Australia. Bennetts says the content has been translated from Auslan to American sign language for New York users and he has also been experimenting with Google Glass. Bennetts explains that the apps are text-based and do not use large amounts of data, going on to respond to caller Glenn who describes a video on a Samsung sign language device before discussing the importance of making such technology. 

4BC Brisbane, Afternoons with Clare Blake

App makes emergency information more accessible

18 November 2014

In Victoria the community now have a useful option to receive information on bushfires. (Important note: This app can be a useful option for access to targeted information. In an emergency Conexu advises you to please contact 000).  People who are deaf or hard of hearing now have another tool to access emergency information through the free app for smartphones, OpenAccess Alerts. The app, developed by the Conexu Foundation, shares text-based public information to keep communities informed with the latest traffic, weather and public transport updates. Now, the app will be bolstered through the addition of emergency information.  As part of Fire Action Week 2014, Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley announced that Emergency Management Victoria and Conexu were teaming up to see Victorian emergency alerts and warnings shared through the app. 

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