Telecommunications and the Deaf
For the past decade, or better, telecommunication for the deaf has been
done primarily with the use of TTY's. If you've ever seen one of these,
then you know there entirely cumbersome and they make simple
conversation a daunting task. There not an item that you can stow in
your pocket like a cell phone or something that can serve several
purposes as does a computer. Conversations are done with long pauses in
between each submission, making it a miserable way to simply
communicate. This is why email and instant messaging services have
become so readily used and are viewed by many has a blessing whether you
are deaf or not.
Some where along the lines, companies began listening to the deaf
community and embarked on the design and production of video relay
phones. What these devices have done for the deaf community is allow
them to communicate to their fullest degree. This is because American
Sign Language is more than simple hand gestures and finger-spelling, it
encompasses the entire body and relies heavily on facial expression to
relay the tone of the conversation. Now people everywhere are able to
keep in contact with friends and family the way they want to, naturally.
But the development of these devices didn't exactly go off without a
According to Customer Relationship Magazine, "Users couldn't tell if the
call was in queue or not because there wasn't any visual messages
displayed saying that you were connected (Bailor, 2005)". I'm not
exactly sure how long it took these companies to figure this problem
out, but "CosmoCom" managed to identify and resolve the issue by 2005.
They improved their customer experiences with the IVVR (interactive
voice and video response) which displays "video menu's for navigation
and messages that let you know that your call has been received and is
in queue (Bailor, 2006)". But even with these new designs, there are
still limitations in the available technology.
Deaf professionals everywhere are demanding that they too need better
technology, that the deaf need cell phones as well; and not just for
texting and email purposes. What I located was an article in PC Magazine
that addressed this issue specifically. Typical "pocket PC's, smart
phones and similar devices are unable to communicate with TTY/TDD
machines", making these types of communication devices practically
useless to the deaf (Machrone, 2004). But there are other devices out
there that can do just this. They are the well known "BlackBerry's,
Sidekicks, Treo, and Palm devices" that we see everyone carrying and
what they allow you to do is "use your keyboard phone as a TTY device" (Machrone,
2004). It is "Lormar Logic that offers this service and is called Lormar
Internet TTY. This service even allows you to reach relay operators"
when needed which comes in handy when you need a voice (Machrone, 2004).
In the end, what seems to weigh more heavily in the outcome is whether
or not the latest technologies are increasing the quality of life for
the deaf, hard of hearing and their family and friends. I came across a
comparative longitudinal study that aimed to answer this exactly. The
comparison was between text telephone systems and video response service
systems (VRS). Users were followed and surveyed over a 10 year span and
surveyed on their use of these systems in private and in the workplace.
Results showed that "there was indeed a preference of one system over
the other, and that neither system increased the quality of ones life (Gotherstrom,
U. 2004)". The VRS was found to "enhance certain aspects by increasing
the quality of service" when compared to the text telephone system alone
(Gotherstrom, U. 2004). The probability is that the "sample size of the
group was too small to measure any significant change" in the quality of
life and we could most possibly note a major difference if sample size
were much larger (Gotherstrom, U. 2004).
Ultimately, we need these systems to increase their capabilities and
user friendliness in order to facilitate the growing number of deaf and
hard of hearing individuals. These kinds of devices by every measure
generate a greater quality of life by establishing the means to maintain
communication and independence for every user. One last suggestion is to
eliminate the middle man, or interpreter, when there are two or more
deaf individuals trying to converse with one another. "Skype" is web
based system that I use most often when communicating with friends
overseas. It is extremely user friendly, and all you need is a
compatible web cam, a computer, and their free service available by
download. Instant interface is completed within seconds and you'll never
miss a moment of the conversation or its intended meaning.
Machrone, B. (2004). I Know You Talk to Bill Gates [Electronic Version].
PC Magazine, December 14, 2004, 23, (22), p 71 0888-8507.
Bailor, C. (2006). A Sign of the Times: CosmoCom helps hearing impaired
callers stay connected [Electronic Version]. CRM Magazine, June, 2006,
10, (6), p43 1529-8728.
Gotherstrom, U.C., Persson, J., & Jonsson, D. (2004). A comparative
study of text telephone and videophone relay services [Electronic
version]. Technology & Disability; 2004, 16, (2), p101-109.
Also see: Telecommunications
article by Todd English
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