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April 16, 2004

System Enables Doctors to "Hear" Sign Language

From: WBBM, IL - Apr 16, 2004

BALTIMORE (CBS 2) Articia Smith is hearing impaired, and uses sign language.

"Sometimes I have a hard time understanding doctors. Everybody talks different," Smith said.

But in a medical emergency, will her doctors know sign language? The chances are slim, and that can be a problem.

"They need to communicate their needs to us. We need to communicate to that person in some way," said Cathy O'Neill, director of nursing at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

Mercy Medical Center is one of the first hospitals in the nation to a use a new program called "Deaf-Talk."

"When a deaf person comes in and we need to speak with them, we can speak with them right away in about two minutes," O'Neill said.

It works like a video-conferencing system. The TV monitor, camera, and microphone put an off-site interpreter on site instantly.

"Prior to getting this device, we had to call an interpreter through an interpreter service, have them beeped, wait for them to call us back, and then wait for them to drive into our facility. It could take up to two or three hours," O'Neill said.

Deaf-Talk is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is accessible in minutes. But it's more than just a time-saver. It's a potential life-saver.

"It was like, wow. With a little bit of sign language, I can do really good," Smith said.

The Deaf-Talk program costs less to rent than most interpreter services. It does require a special phone line for the equipment.

Mary Ann Childers

Deaf-Talk LLC
607 Washington St., Suite 302
Pittsburgh, PA 15228

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