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February 4, 2003


From: United Press International - 04 Feb 2003

New services are making the Internet a better communication portal for the deaf and hearing impaired, according to a report by The traditional communications methods -- TTY or TDD -- used special keypads on which the deaf or hearing impaired person would type their message, which an operator would then relay to the person on the other end of the line. This method can be ineffective for translating the highly visual American Sign Language to English, said. The new Video Relay System, recently released by AT&T, uses a webcam hooked up to a PC with a high-speed Internet connection. A deaf signs to an interpreter, who then speaks to the hearing person being called. According to Mitchell Levy, an AT&T Relay account messenger, the new system is much easier than traditional relay. Levy, who is deaf, spoke to using the system. "(VRS is) more natural, it's faster and there's no lag time," he said. Judy Harkins, director of Gallaudet University's Technology Access Program, concurred. "VRS is very exciting. It is and will be extremely useful to people who can sign, as it is much faster and natural for people on both sides of the conversation -- more equivalent to voice conversation than text methods can be," she said. A similar system also is available from Communications Services for the Deaf, Wired. com reports.


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