A LibreOffice interface providing hearing impaired Brazilians with autonomy to work and to communicate
Pitch us on your solution
is a free software solution aimed to adapt the LibreOffice suite for hearing
impaired people. It is an interface that translates LibreOffice’s menu and
submenus to LIBRAS - Brazilian Sign Language – presenting the corresponding
signs of a selected functionality through a window in the lower right corner of
the user's screen.
This solution potentially reaches around 12 million Brazilians with hearing impairment, helping a community that faces numerous difficulties in the process of adaptation to a world totally driven towards written/spoken Portuguese. Although LIBRAS is the second official Brazilian language, cell phones and computers do not have LIBRAS support, whereas for a hearing impaired person the first - and almost always the only language - is LIBRAS.
Once LIBRASOffice is minimally consolidated as a Brazilian solution, the prospects of adapting it to other languages are opened up, expanding the empowerment of hearing impaired communities on a global scale.
What is the problem you are solving?
We are working to solve accessibility issues regarding software applications by hearing impaired Brazilians. Contrary to popular belief, mainly the deaf neither read/write Portuguese, as they were not taught this language since their early childhood (it must be considered the extreme difficulties for a deaf child to go to schools unprepared to education supported by LIBRAS) nor do they know LIBRAS (as they did not go to school). Besides not being their native language, the great majority is illiterate in Portuguese, what implies their exclusion from a world basically prepared to spoken/written Portuguese. Therefore their autonomy in our common world is strongly restrained, directly affecting their communication skills and work competences, as they can not use specific softwares in their workplaces, as the office suites(we began developing our solution to help our University’s deaf staff in their daily work).
LIBRASOffice intends to reach all the Brazilian population that needs LIBRAS, which can be estimated by these numbers: around 10 million people are partially hearing impaired and around 2 million are totally deaf (2010 Census). The possibility of extending LIBRASOffice to other sign languages faces a world where 466 million people are estimated by WHO to live with disabling hearing loss.
Who are you serving?
We are dealing with the hearing impaired Brazilian population that uses LIBRAS. The solution development began with the approximation of our LabIS – Laboratory for Informatics and Society to the problems posed by the staff of Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, which has a hearing impaired significant workforce because of Brazilian legislation which imposes that 5% of the job positions of public companies and institutions must be occupied by people with any kind of physical impairment. Therefore, public employees are an important community that will benefit from LIBRAS Office.
During the development of LIBRASOffice we have been working with young high school students, one of them granted with a scholarship to record the LIBRAS signs which are shown to LIBRASOffice users. Usability tests have been developed together with CIEP José Pedro Varela, a public high school dedicated to hearing impaired students located at Rio de Janeiro historic downtown. There we have the opportunity to deal with students and teachers (some deaf) daily needs, who have been demonstrating the strong potentialities of LIBRASOffice as a tool for educating the hearing impaired population.
What is your solution?
LIBRASOffice is a fork of LibreOffice, the latter adapted to make it usable in an autonomous way by anyone from the hearing impaired community who uses or is learning to use LIBRAS. LIBRASOffice main function is the translation of written Portuguese into LIBRAS through a window shown in the lower right corner of the screen when the user passes the mouse over a button and/or an option in LibreOffice menu toolbar and/or a pulldown menu. A deaf student performs the correspondent sign trough a previously recorded video.
Each program of the LibreOffice suite presents functionalities which have been continuously added to LIBRASOffice, following the demands of the community, as LIBRASOffice has been developed together with the community A website is being developed to host all the communities’ suggestions and even videos with translations to LIBRAS as there are some local variations of the language.
Because it is a fork of LIbreOffice, changes to the core of LIBRASOffice are made in C++. Briefly, changes in the core of LibreOffice are made so that the external layers, those that display the signs in LIBRAS (developed in Java) can identify where the user is passing the mouse in the document: over a menu/submenu option or even over the writing area as in the case of LIBRASOffice Writer. The Java developments use some functions of the standard API for OpenOffice extensions – the Universal Network Objects (UNO).
LIBRASOffice open source project is being maintained in GitLab (https://gitlab.com/LabIS-UFRJ/LIBRASOffice) as one of the projects of LabIS.
Select only the most relevant.
Where is your solution team headquartered?LabIS – Laboratório de Informática e Sociedade (Laboratory for Informatics and Society) – Programa de Pós-Graduação em Engenharia de Sistemas e Computação (Graduate Program in Computer Sciences and Systems Engineering) – Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Our solution's stage of development:Prototype
Select one of the below:New application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Currently, there is no office suite adapted for Brazilian hearing impaired people and initiatives aimed at understanding and meeting the needs of Brazilian hearing impaired community are still incipient. Therefore, LIBRASOffice stands out for proposing the first steps towards the full inclusion of hearing impaired people, helping them to build their autonomy in face not only of office suite technologies but also of working with personal computers.
Our solution covers diverse possibilities of use, as for example developing the literacy of hearing impaired people in Draw, the design tool of Libre Office, therefore turning the learning process into a more playful activity, as the drawings can be explored for teaching Portuguese and LIBRAS. This potentiality was observed in the public school José Pedro Varela, where some students in process of literacy used the tool Paint to communicate with teachers and other students.
Our solution also translates to LIBRAS help texts which appear when the mouse is positioned over menu/submenu items describing the function of these items. As the use of this kind of help texts is very common in computer programs, exporting this functionality using the same "logic" of translating would make more computer programs adaptable to the hearing impaired community.
The perspective of co-development with the hearing impaired community is also an innovative contribution to the enhancement of community informatics practices.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
LIBRASOffice is a fork of LibreOffice, which means that any modifications in the software that alter the “core” of the program must be made in C++ (the base language of LibreOffice). It is the case of the recognition of help texts, when the LOG file with the Portuguese description of the item functionality is converted to the correspondent LIBRAS signs as a .GIF file.
An auxiliary program in Java is responsible for interpretating the LOG file and searching for the corresponding LIBRAS signs to be displayed. This Java auxiliary program is also responsible for a “math formula assistant” in LIBRAS, exclusively developed for the LIBRASOffice Calc, aimed at facilitating work with spreadsheets and tables. This “assistant” was made using the API UNO (standard for the creation of plugins and extensions) inherited from LibreOffice. The API offers a bridge for communications between the Java program and LIBRASOffice.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
LIBRASOffice has a strong potential to become a facilitating tool in the literacy process and digital appropriation of the hearing impaired community. The Draw tool, present in the Libre Office suite, can be used by deaf people of any age to assist the learning of new words in Portuguese and in LIBRAS, making the process visual and palpable, producing an interactive setting for the user. The use of tools as LibreOffice’s Calc and Impress can be explored to improve the user’s skills in basic notions of operating a computer, such as mouse manipulation, item selection and file creation. As the most popular operating systems do not have full accessibility functions for deaf people, they have become dependent of others to perform basic tasks on the computer. The use of LIBRASOffice can be the first step, serving as an introduction to hearing impaired people that want to learn more about how to use the computer and/or serving for aiding the teachers in classroom activities.
Such an initiative also has the capacity to motivate the debate about new ways for thinking software development, mainly those produced under a free software license. Engaging the developers community in the discussion about inclusion and accessibility is one possibility to achieve this goal.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
Up to the moment, LIBRASOffice has only been used for the purpose of performing usability tests reaching no more than 50 people. In one year we hope to complete a first stable version and make it available for download through a dedicated website, reaching hearing impaired people from our University’s staff and from public schools in Rio de Janeiro. Starting from these two groups, together with the dissemination of our solution, it will be possible to attract more people. In five years we hope that most of Brazilians hearing impaired people will be able to use LIBRASOffice. It is important to reinforce here that we have in Brazil around 12 million hearing impaired people.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
We hope that with our first full version we will be able to motivate and engage more people in the development of LIBRASOffice, especially the hearing impaired community, that can contribute to improve our solution. In addition, the version we have been working on is aimed to allow suggestions of signs to be sent by the hearing impaired community, since there are two issues at stake: some signs in LIBRAS are regional; some LibreOffice’s menu/submenu items still need to be translated to LIBRAS. In the first case it is possible that with the collaboration of local hearing impaired communities different versions will be made available. In the second case hearing impaired community can collaborate by suggesting signs for items that have had no translation yet.
We would like to strengthen the development of LIBRASOffice with the collaboration of people who are interested in free software programs and who want to contribute with the solution.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
We have two main barriers:
1) A technical barrier for the next year– we aim to change the Java program of LIBRASOffice that acts directly inside the LibreOffice’s code for a plugin, since Libreoffice is based on Open Office and the way to create plugins, besides being well documented, does not change with new versions of Libre Office. Overcoming this barrier will avoid the need to compile a new version of LIBRASOffice every time a new version of LibreOffice is released, (there will be no LIBRASOffice within the core of Libre Office).
2) a financial barrier for the next five years: our development is conducted by a few undergrad students – indeed only three - very dedicated to the solution but also very busy with their academic life, so they have to share their efforts with a busy student life. These students were granted a scholarship sponsored by the University, but the actual Brazilian economic crisis and the reality of heavy cuts on the Federal budget forecasts the loss of these scholarships in the very near future. So we would need financial resources to: 1) assure the current scholarships; 2) provide more scholarships so more students can engage in the project; 3) hire professionals that can have full time dedication to the project.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
Overcoming the technical barrier: we are planning how to make this change, how long it will take and how to organize our work to solve this issue. The intended change will make our solution more modular and accessible to collaborators outside the laboratory. However, we consider that it is necessary not to leave apart the version in which we currently are working because of its current advanced and functional stage.
Overcoming the financial barrier: it is important that as a laboratory our work continues commited to keeping at least the current scholarships, reinforcing the importance of what we are doing. We are in search of new partnerships and sponsors, like the SOLVE project, as ways to get financial as also as technical support.
Select an option below:Other e.g. part of a larger organization (please explain below)
If you selected Other for the organization question, please explain here.
The organizational status of the team, rooted in an University (UFRJ) campus and involving people from different educational levels, is certainly one of the main positive features of our proposal.
Our solution team is coordinated by one Associate Professor and composed by 9 students of Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Two are graduate students of the Systems Engineering and Computer Science Program (PESC - www.cos.ufrj.br / COPPE - www.coppe.ufrj.br), five are undergraduate students of the Information and Computer Engineering School, one of the Nuclear Engineering School, and one of LIBRAS (Brazilian sign language) - Portuguese course. The latter is a hearing impaired student who have been working with us since high school.
We are gathered in the Society and Informatics Laboratory (LabIS - https://is.cos.ufrj.br/labis/), one of PESC’s labs. The implementation of LIBRASOffice is an organic part of all these students’ activities, since our efforts, according to the Brazilian law, are based on the indissociability of teaching-researching-outreaching. The solution benefits, and is benefited by, the development of PhD theses at PESC, the teaching of Computer and Society courses at the Information and Computer Engineering School and the outreach activities through which University and society can establish a fruitful dialogue.
How many people work on your solution team?
Everybody works in the solution in a part-time basis, as everyone has to share his/her time between LabIS and his/her student daily activities (courses, exams, etc) and other professional activities (mainly the case of the graduate students of LabIS). We have seven undergraduate and two graduate students working on LIBRASOffice.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Our laboratory has a strong focus on university outreaching and we have and believe in a compromise with the idea of the university as a place for promoting change. Universities are places of innovation that unites young students energy with the experience of teachers and researchers. What we accomplished so far is a result of the dedication and belief in the importance of what we are doing. We believe that our solution can help improving the lifes of a minority group that have so many rights neglected.
The members directly involved in the development of LIBRASOffice are undergrads, six of them with intermediary knowledge in programming, the seventh a hearing impaired who studies LIBRAS at UFRJ who is in charge of recording the signs in LIBRAS (the others: four are software developers, one is a web developer and one is a media developer). The members of our team had been or are currently involved in community activities, as free programing courses offered by LabIS to high school students of public schools.
We understand the relevance of inclusion and emancipation of minority groups for the creation of an equitable and fairer society. At this moment, one of the team’s students is learning LIBRAS in order to develop more autonomy in the communication with the hearing impaired people.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
We have partnership with the Laboratory of Informatics for Education (LIpE / UFRJ) that helps us in the programming and development of the solution, especially in the correction of compilation errors and some technical issues.
The first usability test of LIBRASOffice was performed with hearing impaired employees of COPPE (UFRJ) (see the video) when the first adjustments in LIBRASOffice’s functionalities were made. The partnership persists and we intend to conduct other usability tests with them.
At public high school CIEP José Pedro Varela we conducted our second usability test, responsible for the most significant changes in the suitability of LIBRASOffice for hearing impaired people. We rely on the work of Bruno, a hearing impaired ex-student of this school who is now granted with one of LabIS’ scholarships to record the signs in LIBRAS. Also Sheila and Renata, both teachers of the school, offer a LIBRAS workshop in which one of the LabIS' students participate. Right now we are beginning a pilot experiment with LIBRASOffice in the school, a partnership which has allowed our work to be aligned with the demands of the hearing impaired community.
What is your business model?
Key resources. People: We need one software developer working 40 hours a week, a web designer working 40 hours a week, an interpreter of Língua Brasileira de Sinais (LIBRAS), and an interpreter of the American Sign Language (ASL) for future expansion o four solution.
Partners. The collectives that must be involved in order to deliver LIBRASOFFICE as a solution, as well as the improvements demanded by the deaf community, are basically the developers community of LibreOffice and the deaf community of Rio de Janeiro state.
Channels. Our main channel is a web platform with operating manuals, link for software download and a tool for sign uploads by the deaf community.
Key Activities: Software development, sign language creation by deaf people and sign inclusion in a web platform.
Type of Intervention: LibrasOffice is a free software product.
Segment: Deaf people, interpreters, teachers of deaf students, deaf students and those who wish to learn the sign language.
Value Proposition: This solution potentially reaches around 12 million Brazilians with some or severe hearing impairment, helping a community that faces numerous difficulties in the process of adaptation to a world totally driven towards written/spoken Portuguese.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
In this moment we have scholarships provided by the university and by federal and state agencies for the undergrad students that work with LIBRASOffice. Our link with PESC/UFRJ provides us with our minimal technical needs, as workspace and equipments. Our funding has been guaranteed with these resources, and the payment of scholarships by the university and funding agencies is the main sustainer of our work. With the current situation of universities in Brazil in face of severe budget constraints, there is no guarantee that scholarships will continue to be provided and paid for the undergrad students. Therefore, we understand that developing a first stable version will contribute to demonstrate the vast potential of the university's outreaching activities and therefore help to attract more financial and technical support.
As in other free software initiatives that are currently maintained, one important path to financial and technical sustainability of LIBRASOffice could come with donations and participation of a (to be built) developer community of the solution.
Why are you applying to Solve?
We believe that with Solve project’s reach we will be able to publicize our initiative and receive a feedback from a large community. We believe in our solution and we want to hear from others what can be improved and could make our solution more suitable for the hearing impaired people we are working for.
Initiatives as Solve are a great opportunity for us to discuss and put into words what we do, how we do it and what we expect. In addition, we have the opportunity to know many others solutions around the world and learn from them.
In the case that our solution is selected, counseling can guide us towards a stable version of our solution and the eventual financial resources would at first be used to keep the actual scholarships and hire more people. We believe in the relevance of our work and with Solve the solution will become widely shareable.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
If you selected Other, please explain here.
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
We would like to establish partnerships with others public high schools which welcome hearing impaired people to offer them the benefits of our solution. It would also be valuable to establish a partnership with the National Institute for the Education of Deaf People (INES), because LIBRASOffice could be very useful for their teaching activities, with some improvements developed specifically for INES. Getting support of the free software community would also be very important, as it could help us with the challenges of code development.
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If you would like to apply for the Morgridge Family Foundation Community-Driven Innovation Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
We will utilize the prize for: 1) providing more scholarships and helping to keep the actual scholarships (menaced by severe University's budget cuts); 2) hiring a high qualified software developer to help with development challenges; 3) buying equipments - notebooks, recording equipment (to better record the signs); 4) covering expenses with the team mobility.
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- Victor Costa LabIS
- Henrique Cukierman Professor, UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)
- Fernando Severo Coordinator of the Informatics and Society Lab (LabIS) , Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
- Filipe Silva Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
- Andre V. L. Sobral Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
- Jônathan Elias Sousa da Costa BS in Computer Engineering, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)
- Lidiana Souza LabIS
- Miguel Teixeira Federal University of Rio de Janeiro