Communication Devices for the Deaf
In the United States, an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 citizens use
American Sign Language. This makes ASL the fourth most common language in
the country. (Gulati, 1997) This form of communication within the deaf
community has been very effective. However, problems arise when the
hearing need to communicate with the deaf and vice-versa. Problems can
also arise for the deaf living within a culture where technology is based
on hearing and sighted citizens. Laws have been passed and devices
invented aimed at helping if not solving some of these problems.
In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed to prohibit
discrimination based on disability. Title III of this act addresses what
auxiliary aids professional medical offices must provide. “In general,
professional offices of health care providers must provide auxiliary aids
and services that are necessary to ensure equal access to the goods,
services, facilities, privileges or accommodations that it offers, unless
an undue burden or a fundamental alteration would result” (Antrim, 2004).
An auxiliary aid that an office may utilize is a TTY or text telephone.
Originally invented in the 1930’s for reporters to send messages, it was
modified in the 1960’s by deaf scientist Robert Weitbrecht, so that the
deaf could use the telephone. (FCC, 01) The Americans with Disabilities
Act now requires each state to provide a relay service for TTY users. An
operator will translate calls to the deaf or the hearing. Anyone in the
U.S. can access this service by calling 7-1-1. (Gallaudet, 2003)
A human translator is another option for offices, but it may be
difficult to find truly qualified signers. Certified interpreters are
bound by a code of ethics to translate all communication, including that
between doctor and nurse. This also includes non-verbal communication such
as a sigh. These interpreters are also bound to maintain patient
confidentiality. (Gulati 1997)
The advent of personal computers and e-mail has helped to make
communication easier not only for deaf/hearing communication but also
deaf/deaf communication. In the summer of 2003, Apple computer came out
with iChat and iSight, a video-conferencing software and new web camera.
This technology produces a video clear enough to see the fingers of a
signing person allowing normal ASL conversations. (Evangelista, 2003)
Another recent invention is in the wireless industry. A laptop computer
with a built in camera that does not need to be plugged to a phone line
allows wireless video chatting. (Williams, 2002)
Many daily activities require special devices for the deaf. For
instance, alarm clocks for the deaf will vibrate the bed to wake up the
individual. Light signals communicate that the phone or the doorbell is
ringing, and special sensors will tell them the baby is crying. Another
helper that can do all of that is a Hearing Ear Dog.
Most people have heard of Seeing Eye Dogs, but dogs are also used to
help the deaf. It can take nearly a year to train one of these dogs and
there is a waiting list. These dogs help out the deaf at work as well as
at home. They can alert their masters to sirens, smoke alarms, teakettles
whistling, and even wake up their masters like an alarm clock. (Caroom,
Low-tech devices such as a dog or new-tech devices in computers make
communication with the deaf or the hearing communities much easier. New
technology is introduced everyday. Companies are seeing the need for
better communication in all cultures and the deaf community is included.
Gallaudet University (2002, August 27,). Telecommunications Relay
Services. Technology Access Program. Gallaudet University. Retrieved
12, Aug. 2004
FCC, (2001, Oct. 18). What is a TTY? Federal Communications
Commission. Retrieved 13, Aug. 2004
Antrim, Donald A. Auxililary Aid Requirements For Individuals With
Disabilities. Ohio Optometric Association. Buckingham Dolittle &
Burroughs, LLP. Retrieved 31, July 2004 http://www.bdblaw.com
Gulati, M.D., Sanjay. (1997, Nov. 15). Issues to Consider in Deaf
and Hard-of-Hearing Patients. American Family Physician Vol. 56 Number
8. AAFP. Retrieved 31, July 2004 http://www.aafp.org/afp/gulati/html.
Williams, Norman (2002, August 27). Wireless Video Chat on a Laptop.
Technology Access Program. Gallaudet University. Retrieved 30, July 2004
Evangelista, Benny (2003, Oct.6) iChat Helps the Deaf. Silicon
Mountain Macintosh User Group. Voelker Research. Retrieved 31, July 2004.
Caroom, Ilene (1996, Spring) Super Hearing Dog! USBCC
Newsletter. United States Border Collie Club. Retrieved 12, Aug. 2004. http://www.bordercollie.org/noah/html