Ergonomics and automatic speech recognition applications for deaf and hard-of-hearing users

Woodcock, K., 1997. Ergonomics of automatic speech recognition applications for deaf and hard-of-hearing users. Technology and Disability 7, 147–164.

The potential of automatic speech recognition (ASR) for deaf and hard-of-hearing people has been recognized. This paper reviews the use environment for the deaf and hard-of-hearing person and an ASR device, using ergonomic analysis techniques. Within the deaf and hard-of-hearing population, there are many interpersonal differences, stemming from audiological and rehabilitation characteristics and social and occupational settings. Some members of the population may find ASR devices inadequate or prefer other communication aids. Environmental characteristics, particularly noise and light, affect ASR device use. The technology of automatic speech recognition itself introduces device limitations and challenges. In ergonomic analysis, these three aspects — user, environment and device — are connected by the task, in this case the communication task. Deaf and hard-of-hearing users need to communicate with many different people, ranging from intimate associates to perfect strangers and disembodied voices. They need to communicate in one-to-one situations and in groups both small and large. In many of these communication settings, relationships are more important than information and use of ASR would interfere with valuable eye contact as much as aid communication. Imposing order on many communication settings is problematic, but multiple conversations and interruptions create interference with selecting the correct signal to transcribe.

Author: Kathryn Woodcock

Dr. Kathryn Woodcock is Professor at Toronto's Ryerson University, teaching, researching, and consulting in the area of human factors engineering / ergonomics particularly applied to amusement rides and attractions (, and to broader occupational and public safety issues of performance, error, investigation and inspection, and to disability and accessibility.