Is “good enough” good enough? Ethical and responsible development of sign language technologies

Maartje De Meulder


Abstract
This paper identifies some common and specific pitfalls in the development of sign language technologies targeted at deaf communities, with a specific focus on signing avatars. It makes the call to urgently interrogate some of the ideologies behind those technologies, including issues of ethical and responsible development. The paper addresses four separate and interlinked issues: ideologies about deaf people and mediated communication, bias in data sets and learning, user feedback, and applications of the technologies. The paper ends with several take away points for both technology developers and deaf NGOs. Technology developers should give more consideration to diversifying their team and working interdisciplinary, and be mindful of the biases that inevitably creep into data sets. There should also be a consideration of the technologies’ end users. Sign language interpreters are not the end users nor should they be seen as the benchmark for language use. Technology developers and deaf NGOs can engage in a dialogue about how to prioritize application domains and prioritize within application domains. Finally, deaf NGOs policy statements will need to take a longer view, and use avatars to think of a significantly better system compared to what sign language interpreting services can provide.
Anthology ID:
2021.mtsummit-at4ssl.2
Volume:
Proceedings of the 1st International Workshop on Automatic Translation for Signed and Spoken Languages (AT4SSL)
Month:
August
Year:
2021
Address:
Virtual
Venue:
MTSummit
SIG:
Publisher:
Association for Machine Translation in the Americas
Note:
Pages:
12–22
Language:
URL:
https://aclanthology.org/2021.mtsummit-at4ssl.2
DOI:
Bibkey:
Copy Citation:
PDF:
https://aclanthology.org/2021.mtsummit-at4ssl.2.pdf