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Will Google Duplex help the deaf and hard of hearing community?

Google duplex help the deaf and hard of hearing community

Google recently announced that its new AI system, Google Duplex, will be able to conduct conversations to complete tasks over the phone. 

This was interesting news for the deaf and hard of hearing community because many people in the community do not use the telephone to communicate because they cannot hear over the phone. Could Google Duplex change phone accessibility for the community?

How does Google Duplex work?

As the technology advances in our world, we are being introduced to more AI technology each day. Most people are familiar with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home as a system that you can ask questions and they will provide answers if possible. The Google Duplex is more complex than that. It can hold conversations with humans over the phone to accomplish certain tasks. 

“Today we announce Google Duplex, a new technology for conducting natural conversations to carry out “real world” tasks over the phone,” says Google in their blog announcement for the technology. “The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments.”

The purpose is to make these phone calls and completing these tasks easier for both users and businesses. Google also mentions how it provides more accessibility to people to use the phone.

“It can also help address accessibility and language barriers, e.g., allowing hearing-impaired users, or users who don’t speak the local language, to carry out tasks over the phone.”

Will this help the deaf and hard of hearing community?

Whether or not this will help the deaf and hard of hearing community really depends on how the individual prefers to communicate.

“This is interesting. I think it will definitely help some people. I personally wouldn’t use it, however,” says Phonak hEARo Lisa Goldstein. “I’d want to have more control over my conversations, especially when it comes to times & dates. If I can’t email or text to make appointments, then I either use my captioned phone or the Internet Relay — both of which are preferable to this.”

Another Phonak hEARo, Ellen Parfitt, had a different opinion and more excitement for this new technology.

“I would definitely use this,” says Ellen. “My poor parents have to do all my correspondence over the phone it leaves me no independence. If the google thing was translated accurately in subtitles then 100 percent. The other options we have at the moment are so slow or not accurate enough!”

Read more: How social media is changing the lives of deaf teens

Accessibility in Google

Recently, Google has had a focus on accessibility through its technology and in its workforce. 

At the recent I/O event, Google focused on providing accessibility to people with disabilities, including deaf and hard of hearing people.

“I have a hearing loss, I wear hearing aids. I use subtitles, so by keeping me in their thoughts, everyone gets a fair chance,” says Will Njundong, a participant at Google I/O.

More inclusivity in big companies like this is important for representation and creating technology that is accessible to people of all different abilities. 

Would you think the Google Duplex would be helpful to you? Let us know in the comments. 


Author Details
Kirsten is the managing editor of Hearing Like Me. She has a moderate hearing loss and currently wears Phonak Audéo B-R rechargeable hearing aids. Outside of working for Hearing Like Me, she can be found exploring new cities, trying out new recipes in her kitchen, or hiking. She loves learning about different cultures and languages.