KUDO just put out a press release announcing another value-add for enhancing accessibility of web conferences for wider audiences. Webinar or webcast hosts can now elect to add sign language to their online event, giving hearing impaired attendees a way to benefit from the content.
I wrote about KUDO earlier this year, highlighting the company's focus on facilitating multilingual web events. KUDO takes a multi-pronged approach to helping their clients reach more diverse audiences. The conferencing software itself is fairly basic. Its distinguishing feature is a prominent language selection feature that participants can use to access real-time interpretation provided by a professional interpreter. It's like being at the United Nations, with a "choose your language" switch for your earphone.
The thing that makes it practical is KUDO's pool of certified interpreters, who can be hired to work on your web conference with the knowledge that they have already been trained on the software itself. And KUDO also maintains studios in major cities around the world, offering a hardware setup that takes the burden off webinar hosts when provisioning audio and video for presenters and support personnel.
The new sign language offering takes a similar approach. An event host can specify what sign languages they want to provide for audience members. You might offer a channel with someone signing in American Sign Language, another with a person signing in Australian Sign Language, and other people signing in Chinese, French, Spanish, and so on. The on-screen language selector works the same way as for spoken languages, but selecting a signed language adds a video overlay window to the display, showing the selected signer.
Each sign language interpreter can listen to a spoken translation channel offered through the KUDO interface rather than to the source speaker. So the signer does not have to be responsible for simultaneously translating the source language and signing the translated version.
As in my previous examination of KUDO's user interface, I found the implementation simple and functional. Attendees do not have the ability to resize or reposition the sign language window on their screen while watching. It shows up in whatever position the event host has specified in their setup planning with KUDO.
As in KUDO's initial spoken language offerings, the real power behind the product is KUDO's infrastructure that brings together professionals and technology. KUDO is once again creating a pool of certified sign language interpreters who operate in a variety of languages and have been trained on the KUDO web conferencing system.
I spoke to CEO Fardad Zabetian about the new offering and he told me that KUDO's target is to have 600 signers onboarded by the end of January. If a signer uses their own home/office video setup, KUDO will certify it for meeting minimum operational requirements.
By the middle of 2020, KUDO wants to be able to provide a sign language interpreter for a web event on as little as one-hour notice. When I gasped at this, Mr. Zabetian pointed out that more lead time is always better, as it lets you work with the language professional ahead of time to prep them with jargon, abbreviations, names, and other specialized content that they might encounter.
Event hosts can choose to work through KUDO as a one-stop-shop to find, coordinate, and pay the signers for an event. This lets the host deal with a single "general contractor" and a single event invoice. Alternatively, they can use KUDO's database of professionals to find and negotiate directly with their desired signers, providing greater control over the process.
I continue to be impressed with KUDO's approach to inclusivity and universal access for web events. They understand that it is not just a technology issue, but a matter of bringing together the right people with the right tools. Making it easy to add sign language to web events is a great benefit for the online communications industry.