Crossing the barriers of language and disability with technology and fun: Code for Nerima and accessibility
Regarding the domestic activities that Code for Japan is working on, we will now introduce the case study for “Civic Tech & GovTech in Japan”. In Japan, there are several CivicTech groups called “Code for XX”, active in more than 80 areas. Although the contents and the activities of each one of these groups vary from area to area, they all share a common point: “do what we’re interested in”.
The first report to introduce is the Code for Nerima based in Nerima-ku, Tokyo, which has focuses on the accessibility as a theme
What do you picture from the word “accessibility”? This word in the IT environment refers to easily getting or providing information using software and digital assistants to the elder and handicapped people. Yes, it sounds a little tough. But it’s exciting to think that you can communicate with anyone. At Code for Nerima, Japanese, foreigners, and people with visual or hearing impairments have fun using apps, sign language, and brushstrokes. Please, take a look at the following articles that demonstrate our activities.
Remarkable UD talk in Japan and Taiwan
Code for Nerima was established in 2018 and was able to attract big interest with an app called “UD Talk” during the Code for Japan held in September 2018.
UD Talk is a communication app developed by Mr. Aoki, the representative of Code for Nerima. This app converts speech into text in real time using a speech recognition function. UD Talk allows people with hearing impairments, people with visual impairments, and people who speak different languages to communicate.
During the event of Code for Nerima, the text was always displayed by the UD Talk app, while records of all the communications were shared among all the members. Thanks to that, many participants with visual or hearing impairments could actively participate and made the vent more energetic and lively.
After the Code for Nerima event, the UD Talk app was also used at the drinking party. Even people who cannot use sign language communicated seamlessly with anyone. People who joined the event for the first time were shocked that they were able to communicate naturally even if they had a disability.
We use UD talk at drinking party of Code for Japan. Person who don’t know sign language can communicate with everyone. First participants are surprised that they can talk with handicapped people naturally.
When I learned about the marvels of UD Talk, I asked Mr. Aoki to introduce the UD Talk app during all the Code for Japan Summit sessions in 2018. And given the big impact that the Civic Tech enthusiasts got across the country, they used UD Talk one after another at their own local events and conferences.
Furthermore, UD Talk was also used in g0v Summit in Taiwan by the Taiwanese Civic Tech community ‘g0v (gab zero)’ who participated in the Code for Japan Summit.
Multi-language Cafe Where Diverse Communication Is Born
In 2019, Code for Nerima started a new “Multi-language Café”. This café was created to promote thinking and enjoying different ways of communication, such as spoken language, sign language, brushstrokes, and apps, in order to communicate with various people.
For the first group, cards are distributed, and people that get the same number gather. Usually, people use their voice to gather quickly, but in a multi-lingual cafe where foreigners, visually-impaired, and hearing-impaired people participate, even when shouting the numbers, people either can’t hear the words or understand them, so it’s not that easy.
Then, each group sits next to a table and communication starts. In April, there was a Tunisian person with hearing difficulties who participated in the multi-lingual cafe. He was able to read and write Arabic and French only, and thus the Japanese participants could not communicate with him, so they used a translation application for communicating with each other.
There was one group where participants enjoyed using a blindfold or earplugs to communicate in different ways than the usual. Since they were blindfolded, the only way of identifying who was speaking, was by the voice of the speaker. Also, before speaking, they needed to tell who was around and who was about to speak. However, a situation occurred were a blindfolded person was talking even though no one was around. By having this kind of experience, empathizing with others through communication was made possible at the Multi-language Café.
People with Problems and Civic Tech
Civic Tech solves regional issues with technology, but people who have not participated in them might think or say that there are no particular problems to be resolved. Regarding this, Mr. Aoki, the representative from Code for Nerima, responds as follows.
I also live in Nerima, Tokyo, and I have “no particular problems to be resolved” as well. If Code for Nerima didn’t provide UD Talk, some people will have not being able to participate in the event, such as those with hearing impairments or foreigners. At that time, they had a “problem of not being able to participate”, and “the problem was solved” by using UD Talk. Such people bring many more challenges. In other words, we rather be thinking “how to allow people with problems participate in our activities, instead of looking for problems to be resolved”.
By all means, let’s work together!
Code for Nerima Profile
Activity area: Nerima, Tokyo
Events: regular meeting held on the third Tuesday of every month, and other non-recurring events（refer to https://www.facebook.com/pg/code4nerima/events/）
Representaive: Shuji Aoki
Established: March 2018
This article was translated by a volunteer member of Rakuten, Inc.
Thank you, Satoshi Nakagawa and Aki Sakurada, Luis Vidal.