Challenge: Hearing impaired people are often overlooked in emergencies due to a lack of accomodating services, including a simplified method to call 911 as text-to-911 programs are not available in many states. Communication is also difficult as many first-responder protocol do not include interpreters, a challenge that is worsened because deafness has no tangible qualities. This becomes problematic in events like hurricane evacuations or home invasions.
Solution: We created an AI-powered home module device that seeks to support deaf and or hard-of-hearing individuals during emergency situations.
Who Are We Designing For?
Our primary and secondary research were conducted by interviewing a spectrum of deaf and hearing impaired individuals. We also conducted our research by collecting and reading scholarly articles about existing and developing technology for American Sign Language (ASL) and deaf and hearing impaired individuals.
For our primary research, we conducted interviews with people who are deaf and hearing impaired and we also conducted interviews with local first responders to get insight on their experiences with preparations for natural disasters as well as the aftermath. We also wanted to get insight on the technology and procedures used in emergency situations.
Through our research we discovered that when it comes to preparation for natural disasters, the deaf and hearing impaired community are often unprepared because of "broadcast debacles" that happen during a live broadcasting of a federal state of emergency.
These broadcast debacles usually happen because the camera shot does not include the ASL interpreter and due to incorrect closed captions. As a result, numerous deaf and hearing impaired people are often left behind when a natural disaster hits and they are left relying on their survival skills.
Pain Points for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired
● Medical and legal services (EMTs, doctors, court system, lawyers) are often really difficult situations for deaf people
● Interpreters not readily available which leaves the person who is deaf without any forms on communication
● Debbie’s friend had heart complications and was in and out of the hospital. It was difficult getting him an interpreter and they often forgot that he needed one when he would go in for appointments.
● Another friend who was 28 had a stroke. Her parents were out of town and again she needed an interpreter and the hospital did not really know what to do with her.
● Loss of electricity or wifi connection makes it impossible for deaf people to use their AT devices to communicate
To understand a deaf person's thoughts, feelings and behavior, we created an experience map. The map highlighted the pain points during a deaf person's experience in a situation of a natural disaster. The pain points also showed us the opportunity space to create a solution that could potentially help both a deaf person and a first responder.
Product Design Sketches
Through sketching, we explored how we could incorporate a modular system into the physical product and what is the easiest shape, action, and way for the user to quickly grab an important mobile part of the product.
Because of the shape of the screen, we created wireframes to explore the interactions and interactive flow of the product and how the interactions can still follow the Google Material Design language.
We decided to create a user scenario to visualize the implementation of our solution.
Solution: Google Response
We redesigned the Google Home to help deaf and hearing impaired individuals contact 911 with technology that can interpret American Sign Language (ASL) and relay it in spoken-word over the phone. In addition to allowing a deaf person to more easily articulate their emergency, the module is built with a screen that transcribes what is being spoken by a first-responder. The device also receives real-time updates of weather alerts during hurricane seasons. This both aids deaf and hearing impaired individuals in emergency preparation by providing a detailed guide to necessary supplies as well as alerting them early on when evacuation may be necessary.