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February 11, 2003


From: KFMB, CA - 11 Feb 2003

(02-11-2003) - A new telephone service is about to help the tens of millions of Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Mitchell levy has been deaf for most of his life. But he's never let that keep him from communicating. He used to rely on what is known as a TTY, a text telephone, to chat with family, friends and coworkers.

“My deafness has never stopped me from communicating whether it's for personal or professional reasons,” said Levy.

But TTYs have their limitations.

“The biggest shortcoming of a TTY is it is text based, and for most deaf and hard of hearing people that communicate in sign language, that is their secondary language,” said Ronald E. Obray, President of Hands On.

It's much faster for people like Mitchell to sign rather than type, and more conversational.

“American Sign Language, otherwise known as ASL is a visual language that is grammatically much different that text based English,” said Obray.

Now a new video relay service from AT&T enables Mitchell to sign his conversations.

Using a web camera and the Internet, he can communicate comfortably with a certified interpreter who relays the conversation over the phone to the hearing party.

“Service is absolutely free. all the customer needs is high speed internet and a low cost web cam,” said Vicki Potts of AT&T Relay Services. “The thing that's really great is the person receiving the call doesn't need any special equipment at all, just a standard telephone.”

VRS has already changed Mitchell's life, and in time, this new technology is sure to help level the playing field for more deaf and hard of hearing people across the country.

Copyright © 2003 Midwest Television