The ability for men and women who are transgender to properly represent themselves in the way that they themselves see fit has left much to be desired. While they will change how they identify, including how they physically appear, they are not fully able do so because their voices do not match their new appearances. People identify each other with not only their eyes, but their ears as well. Enter; the Exceptional Voice App. EVA is a voice training application that addresses this social justice issue. By allowing a person who is transgender to completely identify(combining audio and visual cues) as the gender they chose to, it has the potential to improve on their own lack of personal confidence as well possibly avert harassment, violence, and discrimination that comes with being a perceived unfavorable minority in society.
EVA’s voice training is done using a smartphone and the designed application. It uses pitch, breathing, and other exercises to help to completely modify their voices over time. It is available for both iOS users and Android users. However, due to some software inconsistencies a number of android devices do not support EVA. EVA is a Technology-enhanced learning (or TEL) tool.
Because EVA is a smartphone based application that teaches one to modify one’s voice to different frequencies and therefore is a tech-enhanced learning tool, it brings it into the realm of evaluation of a TEL regarding addressing social justice. As Light and Luckin discussed in their Designing for Social Justice excerpts, TELs have an important place within social justice agenda. TELs can offer learners an experience that is specific to them and that is designed to meet their individual needs.(Light and Luckin, 2008, p. 27). They can address the needs of the many, especially members of marginalised groups and help them articulate their voices. (Light and Luckin, 2008, p. 27). Perhaps most importantly, it supports a learners social and communicative activities; this allows them to voice their views and needs more effectively. EVA does this effectively. EVA literally and figuratively gives the transgender a voice to operate with. Not only does it give one the voice they desire, it gives them the voice they desire for the attention and possible acceptance of those outside of the marginalised group.
There are some positive points and concerns regarding privacy and accessibility with EVA. First and foremost despite EVA’s seemingly permanent effects over time, it is still a wearable technology. It’s a wearable audio technology. In a way, one may deem it partially similar to visual technologies i.e. Google Glass and other augmented reality devices. As detailed in Steve Mann’s Mann Glass, Speed Glass, GooGlass, and The Veillance Contract one of the biggest issues within wearable computing is that of surveillance and the hypocrisy of surveillance and sousveillance. “The very same people who were building a world of watching — were afraid of being watched!” (Mann, 2013). When one that deems an uneven playing field of communication as normal is challenged by the playing field becoming even, it is now no longer normal. One way privacy in certain respects is a form of hypocrisy. However, in regards to EVA, not only is the app itself designed to be private by working from your smartphone, when it “evens the playing field” for representation of transgender, it is done in a manner to simply allow transgenders to live the lives they have earned instead of forcing an even playing field of privacy through the visual cue of wearable visual image capture technology.
However, with EVA there are some serious concerns with accessibility. As detailed in Gerard Goggin’s Cell Phone Culture: Mobile Technology in Everyday Life, although mobile technology is made in mind for all (especially commercially), unfortunately it does not actually play out this way. For instance, cell phones were once difficult for ones with disability to hold and use because it was too bulky. Then, as technology allowed for phones to become greatly smaller, it created another issue with people who lacked the dexterity and nimble fingers to sift through the small screens and even smaller interfaces on them. (Goggin, 2006, p. 91) By fixing one you exclude another.
While being transgender is not a disability, having a phone with a fragmented software is; in terms of accessibility to technology. This means if you don’t have the supported phone with the supported software, despite the app itself being available on all major mobile platforms, you do not have access to this application.
– Goggin, Gerard(2006). Cell Phone Culture: Mobile technology in everyday life. Retrieved March 8, 2015 From: https://mobmedsp15.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/goggin-gerard-cell-phone-culture_ch-5.pdf
-Light, Ann and Luckin, Rosemary(2008). Designing for social justice: people, technology, learning. Retrieved March 8, 2015 From: https://mobmedsp15.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/designing_for_social_justice.pdf
-Mann Steve (September 26, 2013). MannGlass(“GlassEyes”), SpeedGlass, “GooGlass”, and “The Veillance Contract”. Retrieved March 8, 2015 From: http://wearcam.org/VeillanceContract/VeillanceContract.htm
-[Picture of Phone will running “EVA” app] (2015). Retrieved March 8, 2015 From: http://exceptionalvoiceapp.com
-Perez, Kathe. (May, 8, 2009). Rachel Now and Then. Retrieved March 8, 2015 From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qFmNE1dxHs&t=102
-[Screenshot of Accessibility claim for EVA] (2015). Retrieved March 8, 2015 From: http://exceptionalvoiceapp.com (Original Site)
-Perez, Kathe. EVA: Eva From Kathe Perez: The World’s FIRST and ONLY Transgender Voice Training App!. Retrieved March 8, 2015 From http://exceptionalvoiceapp.com
-Lewis, Shanna. (August 25, 2014). Transgender people whose voice doesn’t match their looks turn to new app. Retrieved March 8, 2015 From http://www.cpr.org/news/story/transgender-people-whose-voice-doesnt-match-their-looks-turn-new-app