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 onA.I.R. official presentation

September 12, 2012 - Chamber of Deputies, Palazzo Marini, Rome


Whatch {rokbox title=|Press Conference of onA.I.R. - International Association on Respeaking| text=|the whole video| size=|854 505|}{/rokbox} or the video of each speech

 The Conference presenting onA.I.R., the International Association on Respeaking, took place on September 12 in Rome, in the prestigious Sala delle Colonne in Palazzo Marini. 

 This young and innovative association is led by proactive and skilful young people. As the President of the Association, Francesca Marchionne, explained, onA.I.R. is an association of respeakers, scholars, deaf people, professionals, students, young respeakers undergoing training and interested people.

 The target of the Association is to achieve excellence in the accessibility of services and mass media for foreigners and deaf people. It deals mainly with respeaking and aims at gradually expanding its efficient use in Italy and abroad.

 As MP Mario Mauro said in a video message, onA.I.R. has been working in this field for some time with the revolutionary project OltreSuoni, where the extraordinary intertwining of technology, research and solidarity enables real-time subtitling of a web radio.

 As HR Manager Carlo Eugeni explained, the project focuses on subtitling specific features of general interest. A chat is also foreseen in the framework of the project, so that users can interact with the speaker and the respeaker. Respeaking and its innovative applications have, however, many more uses. This technology has a huge potential: from television, where it is used already, to telephone calls, meetings, university lectures, thus enabling sensorially and/or linguistically challenged people to have immediate access to daily life.

 To demonstrate the feasibility of this vision, the whole conference has been subtitled by a professional respeaker, Erika Orlando, aided by her colleague Claudio Russello, who is also a professional respeaker. The speakers’ words have been faithfully respoken and shown on a screen, enabling everybody – hearing and deaf people as well as foreigners – to follow the speeches at the same time. The Vice President of onA.I.R., Tiziana Trapani, has presented other revolutionary, but at the same time concrete, projects which are boiling in the cauldron of the Association, such as real-time interlingual subtitling. This is possible thanks to the cooperation with skilled professionals in the field of interlingual translation, i.e. interpreters who have undergone thorough training in respeaking, which is difficult even at an intralingual level. Another project with endless potential is P.A.Li.O.S.S. (the Italian acronym of Platform for the Accessibility to Oral Language for the Deaf and Foreigners), which aims at creating an online platform to which the deaf and foreigners can turn to request various kinds of services: simultaneous interpreting, real-time subtitling of a telephone call, sign language interpreting, etc. A further, more recent project is the subtitling of the web TV Libera; one of its channels will be entirely managed by onA.I.R. and contain all the most popular videos with subtitles for the deaf.

 The world of report writers, transcribers and stenotypists is also getting to know this technique and starting to consider it as one more weapon progress provides them with to tackle the growing number of challenges in their field, explained expert transcriber Francesco Cellini.

 Some projects are not yet on their way, but fall nonetheless within the scope of the Association, such as the promotion of respeaking in high schools providing a specific social, psychological and pedagogic education as well as in the offices for disability issues at universities in order to ensure access to classes and lectures at any educational level.

 Subtitling university lectures would ensure the complete integration of deaf students in their classes and is another practical field in which respeaking can do wonders. Thanks to this technique deaf students can follow the lecture and at the same time ask questions or express their opinion, as underlined by Giacomo Pirelli, who is deaf and in charge of the communications with associations. During the conference he demonstrated the universal nature of the Association: he took care of making his presentation about needs and difficulties of the deaf in daily life accessible to a public with normal hearing.

 The theme ‘university lectures’ was also taken up by Professor Franca Orletti, coordinator of the Masters in Translation and Communication in Web, Cinema and Television Careers of the University of Roma Tre. As to the relationship between orality, writing and social inclusion, the university will endeavour to train, in cooperation with onA.I.R., experts in communication and respeaking, because the use of respeaking would ensure a larger accessibility of university lectures through their online publishing.

 Giovanni Polidoro, legal expert, has then talked about the accessibility of mass media from a legislative point of view, with specific reference to the measures for the protection of sensorially disadvantaged people. He underlined how, due to the slow progress and insufficient laws in the field, RAI has been excluding the deaf for way too long both from correct and reliable information and from most of the entertainment offer of public TV, contrary to what happens in other countries.

 The highlight of the conference was the granting of the honorary presidency of the Association onA.I.R. to Giuliano Pirelli. This honour was conferred upon him by the President herself for inventing respeaking in 1996; he was the first person in the world who, within the framework of the project VOICE of the European Commission, thought of using the first, elementary continuous speech recognition software to subtitle in real time events which otherwise would not be accessible to those who don't understand the source text due to language or sensory limits.

 The conference was attended by many representatives of national and international institutions, of deaf associations, of the world of technology, research and professionals. This clearly represents the sphere of influence of the young onA.I.R., the mission of which is to give all those who suffer from communication difficulties – such as deaf people and immigrants – the chance to take part in many kinds of events from which they are usually excluded, thus taking a further major step towards their full integration into society.

Elena Graziosi

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Translation by Cristina Tabbia

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