Multimedia Tools and Applications

, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 181–199 | Cite as

Improving multimodal web accessibility for deaf people: sign language interpreter module



The World Wide Web is becoming increasingly necessary for everybody regardless of age, gender, culture, health and individual disabilities. Unfortunately, there are evidently still problems for some deaf and hard of hearing people trying to use certain web pages. These people require the translation of existing written information into their first language, which can be one of many sign languages. In previous technological solutions, the video window dominates the screen, interfering with the presentation and thereby distracting the general public, who have no need of a bilingual web site. One solution to this problem is the development of transparent sign language videos which appear on the screen on request. Therefore, we have designed and developed a system to enable the embedding of selective interactive elements into the original text in appropriate locations, which act as triggers for the video translation into sign language. When the short video clip terminates, the video window is automatically closed and the original web page is shown. In this way, the system significantly simplifies the expansion and availability of additional accessibility functions to web developers, as it preserves the original web page with the addition of a web layer of sign language video. Quantitative and qualitative evaluation has demonstrated that information presented through a transparent sign language video increases the users’ interest in the content of the material by interpreting terms, phrases or sentences, and therefore facilitates the understanding of the material and increases its usefulness for deaf people.


Human-computer interaction Usability Accessibility Deaf and hard of hearing Sign language Video Transparent video 



The project is partially supported by the European Commission within the framework of the Lifelong Learning Programme, project DEAFVOC 2. It is also partially supported by the Slovenian Research Agency in the framework of the Science to Youth program which provides financial support to young researchers. Special thanks go to Petra Rezar from the Ljubljana School for the Deaf for her comments and suggestions while using the first prototype of the application, to the Association of the Deaf and Hard-Of-Hearing People of Podravje for their help in the evaluation of the application, as well as to Milan Rotovnik from University of Maribor for his work on transparency.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matjaž Debevc
    • 1
  • Primož Kosec
    • 1
  • Andreas Holzinger
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer ScienceUniversity of MariborMariborSlovenia
  2. 2.Institute of Medical Informatics, Research Unit HCI4MEDMedical University GrazGrazAustria
  3. 3.Institute for Information Systems and Computer MediaGraz University of TechnologyGrazAustria

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