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2 minute read
13 Mar 2024

Amberscript makes council meetings of Dutch municipalities accessible to the deaf and hearing-impaired

The city council, a group of elected representatives of the people within a municipality, checks the day-to-day management performed by the mayor and aldermen. They regularly debate in local council meetings.

Google not good enough

During the municipal council meetings important issues are discussed for the residents of these municipalities. Municipalities see it as their duty to make the content of the municipal council meetings public and accessible to all Dutch people, including those with disabilities. There are about 120 Dutch municipalities that work together with Company Webcast, which is part of Euronext, and which is the market leader in the field of webinars and webcasts to offer recordings of meetings online. Company Webcast uses Google’s voice recognition to automatically provide these webcasts with subtitles. However, the feedback was that the quality was not good enough for the deaf and hearing-impaired who represent 10 to 15% of the European population.

Digital accessibility

The municipalities were determined to act in a cost-efficient manner and to enable hearing-impaired people to remain involved in decision-making within municipalities. In addition, they are now also obliged to do so. On the 26th of October 2016, the European Parliament and the EU Council drafted Directive EU 2016/2102 ‘on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies’. This guideline is also known as ‘Digital accessibility’ and has been translated into local legislation. In practice, this means that every (semi) public organization of the EU member states is obliged to ensure that their websites and apps are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

An own engine

Some municipalities, such as the municipality of Enschede, have opted for the Amberscript speech recognition engine which produces subtitles without human intervention that are well understood by deaf and hearing-impaired people. In principal,  this was already a lot better than the old situation, but to further increase the accuracy, Amberscript was given a list of words that are often used by the municipalities. With that, Amberscript trained a specially adapted voice recognition engine for the municipalities.

Some other municipalities, such as the municipality of Barneveld, have chosen to have the subtitles perfected through Amberscript’s ‘perfect’ service. In both cases, the subtitles are offered via an API and sent back to the ‘direct’ and the ‘perfect’ service via the API.

Read the full article on how Amberscript is helping Jaco on following the city council meetings.

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