IM this article to a friend!

July 8, 2004

AOL Tailors AIM for Hearing and Speech Disabled

From: Wireless NewsFactor - Jul 8, 2004

By Erika Morphy
Wireless NewsFactor
July 8, 2004 6:58PM

A new AOL service promises better access to telecommunications services for the hearing and speech disabled. Now, users can make phone calls using their AOL or AIM buddy lists without the need for a special TTY device.

AOL has rolled out a new service that allows the hard of hearing, deaf and speech disabled to connect to telecom services and place relay telephone calls directly from their AOL Buddy list or AIM Buddy list feature.

To use the service, users add the relay vendor's designated AOL or AIM Screen name to their Buddy List and send an instant message to the vendor with the ten-digit phone number they would like to call. Once connected with an operator, the call proceeds as a traditional relay call, except using instant messages instead of typing text into a TTY device.

Access to Services

"What this does is further mainstreams wireless communications among the deaf community," Tom Wlodkowski, director of accessibility, tells NewsFactor. "It provides an additional access point for telecommunication relay services."

For example, suppose a deaf person's car has broken down. Previously, that person could call for help only if the cell phone had special software and the recipient had a TTY device, Wlodkowski pointed out. With the new services from AOL, though, all the person needs is an AIM-capable wireless device to contact a live operator, who then can relay the message to a tow service. Any instructions the service company might have for the caller are delivered, in text format.

Thus far AIM Relay Services has established several partnerships with relay service providers, including, powered by MCI , and Hands On Video Relay Service.

The AIM screen name for MCI's IP Relay Service is "MyIPRelay." The AIM screen name for Hands On Relay Service is "Hovrsim."

Video Enabled

AIM Relay Services on the desktop also support video relay calls where the caller and the operator communicate in American Sign Language through a webcam.

AIM Relay Services is accessible on users' computers through the AOL software, on the Web through the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service, and through the Apple iChat client. It also is available on several wireless devices, such as the Danger Sidekick with T-Mobile service, or through cell phones that offer WAP-enabled access to AIM.

© Copyright 2000-2004 NewsFactor Network. All rights reserved.