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Accessible ICT for Disaster Preparedness and Warning:
Human-centered Design of Standards and Technology for Effective Communication

Markku Hakkinen
DAISY Consortium

Good morning, I thank Hiroshi for the introduction and the opportunity to be here at the Global Forum to talk about what is a very important and serious subject. I am going to try to provide some ideas and examples using images, words and some text and hopefully structure it so that we have time actually to engage in discussion after Stephen is finished. I am very interested in hearing your experiences and your ideas on how to build this collaboration that Mr. Kawamura has talked about. So my presentation is entitled accessible ICT for disaster preparedness and warning with the sub heading Standards, Technology and human centered design. I also want to give credit to my co-author and colleague on much of the work over the last couple of years. Dr. Helen Sullivan is a research psychologist who has become very interested in the needs of persons with disabilities during disasters. I will add that on my slide I have an image from a tsunami evacuation sign, of a person running from a wave. And I use images on number of slides and will try to describe them for you as they have some significance as we move through the presentation.

So during the last year we have seen some very dramatic examples of the need for preparedness and warning for disaster. We had the very significant tragic tsunami in the Indian Ocean. We have hurricanes and many number of other disasters striking parts of Central America and North America. We had flooding either as a result of heavy storm or from hurricanes and typhoon. And we had earthquakes causing great damage in Pakistan and the Kashmir area. And in all of these cases, thanks to this very rich world of interactive media, we have been able to see some very striking and sad examples of what happens when preparedness has not been followed. You see what will happen when warning systems have not been effective or not even existing. And I think it's very obvious to say that if we had been better prepared, we would have been able to warn more people and reduce somewhat the loss of life and property.

On this slide I have a photograph from the Patong Beach region in Phuket, Thailand, which is typical of the types of scenes that we have seen in the past year. I was totally struck by many of the scenes from my own country during Hurricane Katrina. A friend did go there and assist in recovery efforts and some of the photographs are from him. One story is what happened to the assistive residential care center residents unable to evacuate because they could not receive assistance. It is a very sad event, I think all of you may have seen these pictures in the media.

Two things we really know quite well: Being prepared for disaster will save lives; there is no question about that. Being warned in advance of disaster can save lives. Many times there is not enough time to issue a warning. When an earthquake happens there may be only a few seconds. If you have a system that detects a tsunami, you may be able to warn of the tsunami strike with hours of notice or perhaps simply minutes. Some times even you can generate a warning, people don't respond. There are some very interesting questions about human behavior when warnings are presented. Do people receive the warning? Do they understand what the warning means? Do they know what to do? So warning is a very effective and important part of saving lives in disaster but there a lot of unanswered questions and concerns we have with creating effective warnings.

I have another photograph here showing how some countries and cultures have very much prepared for disasters. In my visits to Japan I will go to shop at Tokyu Hands which is my favorite store in Japan and there are large areas on the store floor where preparedness supplies are available. I have a photograph here showing kits containing flashlights, batteries, various kinds of preparedness materials. These are things that are available now to purchase and stock in your home. I don't know the accessibility of the product, I didn't evaluate that, I simply was very-very struck by the fact the preparedness is very much of the part of the culture there. So I am going to start with couple of basic ideas and examples first of how we should all be advised to prepare for disaster. And when we travel to new places and or living in our home environments, we have to rely upon whatever preparedness materials may be available to us. In general the model for preparedness information materials in most countries, if it does exist, is in a paper form, be they maps or documents, or in pdf files that have accessibility problems. A perfect example, in the case of tsunami, are things like evacuation maps and hazard maps. They are very useful to tell you what are the safe areas, what are the places to avoid and where the evacuation zones are located. And in this map right here, it's from Phuket in Thailand which I visited last May. This picture is an example of one of the first attempts to create an evacuation map and it's uses color on portions of the coast line and it's shows the red shaded areas which is hazard zone and it's shows three areas which are the safety zones and blue lines to show the evacuation path. I tried to, as just a casual visitor to this town, to understand where my safety routes were, where and how to find the evacuation safety areas. I am sighted relatively able bodied, but found it difficult. You also note on this map there is text in both Thai and English which shows graphically that we may live in various cultures where we don't just have one language present in our environment. We may have to deal with visitors, we have to deal with immigrants and refugees and transient workers. So trying to convey information of a very critical nature and in multiple languages using complex graphics is not a simple task and if you have visual print impairment or you have learning disabilities this may be completely impossible as a survival or preparedness tool.

So what we might be done to improve understanding? Accessible preparedness materials. One example: I think Kohei Yamane spoke earlier in the global forum of his work in Urakawa, Japan. There they are beginning to look at accessible preparedness materials developed in conjunction with residents of the community who are disabled. On the screen is a visual example of a Daisy book which is showing evacuation routes in the town of Urakawa. And it's in Japanese and shown in a Daisy Player. We have a table of contents of various portions of the guide on the left portion of the screen and on the right we have text and image and if this were actually the Daisy presentation, we would have the audio describing the evacuation routes while showing the image. I think Kohei can describe more of work they are doing in Urakawa during the discussion. One of the things I should add in this photograph, if you are able to see, and I will describe it, one of many tsunami evacuation routes in Urakawa which is wooden set of stairs which go up in hill and which is not accessible for people in wheelchairs. If we now move further and take a look what we might do to use future versions of Daisy, where we use standard SMIL and build in thorough accessibility and universal design, we might take that Daisy Guide shown today and begin to build a walk through which might be created by the residents with disabilities in conjunction with emergency planners that can show you evacuation routes and show you visually the low tech signs that will help you find the evacuation route and show you perhaps animated arrows with the verbal descriptions where you can go to find safety. These things may be particularly appealing when we have individuals with cognitive disabilities who may need visual reminders for assistance to move through their community.

So I will now talk about how we warn of a disaster. In Phuket Island after the December Tsunami they began to install tsunami warning siren towers throughout several communities. These towers will sound the siren, a very loud distinctive noise, and then make announcements in I think six languages, telling you that you should evacuate. There are reports that after one of the recent tsunami drills that took place in Phuket there was confusion from various tourist and visitors who are taking part. They didn't know what the siren sound or what the instruction meant. Now think about how those with hearing impairments will find out the meaning of the siren, they have to rely upon people running, perhaps in wrong direction, to realize something has been announced they should be concerned with. So I think it is becoming very clear to those in the warning community that sirens are not an effective tool in conveying an alert to all members of the community.

So other alternative also been looked at. One of the alternatives, if you use mobile devices or mobile phones, is to receive text messages and SMS messages to tell you that there is an alert in your area. And generally I forget my reading glasses and when I pick up my mobile phone to look at my text message, the picture on the screen shows you what I see on, which is blurred image of my mobile phone. What this text message says on my mobile phone is that a tsunami warning has been, issued evacuate to high ground immediately. For the visually impaired, it is a valueless message if I can not see it. If I don't speak in English it is valueless message. If I am watching television while I am in Japan I might see something similar to what you see on the screen right now, which is a map with red and orange lines on the screen and some Japanese text, and some numbers like 1 m and .5 m. So I might wonder what this is since the announcer is speaking Japanese, which I really don't understand. Perhaps it is a weather report or wave report. As I continued to watch this I then see something else on this screen appear, flashing on and off periodically in English: its says tidal wave warning a little red box with white letters. And it's says sub channel or radio 2. So I look at my remote control, after finding my glasses, and find the button that might say channel 2 or bilingual. Now I hear the messages in English saying that an earthquake occurred and a tsunami is expected. I didn't see the scrolling text alternative captions in either English or Japanese so if I couldn't hear, I wound not get much information. The on screen flashing messages of short duration, the on-screen map wasn't in my mind sufficient to understand the problem. So one of the things that we need to look at is how very important it is to deliver preparedness or warning information in is many modalities as possible which means you really have to ensure that underlying standards contain as much information that can be rendered into different modalities, including audio recording or text to speech. You want to be able present textual messages, graphic messages, potentially also transform these messages to other languages or simple presentations for various members of our community. So in this case we look at the possibility of using something called Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language recommendation of the World Wide Web Consortium, which is becoming more common in mobile phones. Can we actually have very rich multimedia messages that are universally designed? A message arriving at my phone can cause it to vibrate so I know that something important has arrived. I can look at the screen and see in very clear letters now, not the very simple black and white, but colorful tsunami warning. I can see maps, I hear audio text to speech and certainly now I have a device that is providing me information multiple in modalities. I am always concerned that I may not know that I have received the text message. If I don't have the phone near me or is the ringer is off, I will never know a message has arrived. It is very important, as we look at mobile devices, to know what modalities are needed to convey information effectively. I think Stephen Shore's presentation shortly will talk a lot about the value of multi modality approach for preparedness information.

So this observation: There is a challenge to the community of technology standard organizations on the Internet Society webpage and I will read it. The challenge is that collaborative actions are necessary to assure the standards-based all media-all hazards public warning becomes part of the national infrastructure, available to all societies, worldwide. This is good but there might be something missing on that statement: universally designed, accessible all media-all hazards warning. I have a web address on the slide and I can provide it after the talk. Now we have some troubling words to consider.... I get hurried away so I have only two minutes left. So discussion can perhaps take care of the rest. The one point here is that this is from the National Council on Disabilities... they have a report that basically says disaster preparedness and emergency response do not consider people with disabilities, instead being designed fo people who are not disabled; they do not provide the types of capabilities or features we need to ensure everyone gets the message. So taking that into consideration you look at the Internet Society challenge perhaps can be reworded to include words like accessible, based on principles of Universal Design. I talked to the Internet Society about updating their statement and challenge to incorporate something that is more realistic from our perspective. I think the main point has been reiterated by Mr. Kawamura and the ITU speaker earlier in the week that we really do not include persons with disabilities in preparedness and warning in the research and development stage or in the testing phase. We really need the people doing the current research on warning to understand this community and understand the problems faced by people with disabilities. I think we can get the message received very quickly. We made presentation to some groups and conferences for researchers and emergency planners who are really very receptive to this issue and problem. So I don't think we have much problem with that community. We need to get there and talk to them. Also I think we need to remember in the real world that we need also the low tech and high tech elements. I think it is clear we can't rely solely on high tech little communicator devices during many forms of disaster... system networks go down very rapidly or get overloaded. So we need to remember not to become overly reliant upon technical solutions. We need fall backs and resilient technology. There are some standards we should be aware of, one of the more interesting to me is something called the Common Alerting Protocol. I made some contact with the group chair of the working group and it appears they make some effort to look at accessibility though I think it is at rather early stages right now. I think that there is a need to promote more inclusion of disability issues in that standard, such as features from daisy which I think you hear about later again today, and building blocks like SMIL which I mentioned, and XML and HTML... bits and pieces of building good systems, and again guidelines. We learned a lot from web accessibility we need to translate that to the disaster preparedness and warning world. Let's not waste time to re- learn something we already know a lot about. One of things we found with many of the disaster researchers we talk to is the recognition that they may understand earthquake prediction or the prediction of flood models but what they don't understand is the human factor and that includes both disabled and non-disabled, and its very clear they begin to recognize this. I think we have a very important opportunity to go ahead and pursue those issues that community and ... I rush now over two minutes.