IM this article to a friend!

July 6, 2004

New Technology Speeds Phone Calls By Deaf

From: Hawaii, HI - Jul 6, 2004

Hearing Impaired Can Take Advantage Of New Video System

POSTED: 3:09 pm HST July 6, 2004

HONOLULU -- New technology is making it possible for people who are deaf or hearing impaired to make a phone call in Hawaii.

Deaf people now have a new way to talk on the phone called VRS, for video relay system.

Hawaii is one of the first states to have it thanks to the state Public Utilities Commission.

It's a big difference from the old way, which involved typing, officials say.

"It's basically a keyboard that you type on and the sentences that are typed will be shown on a screen," Joel Matusof said through an interpreter.

Official say the old method was a lengthy process. The new process moves conversations along much faster.

Using what amounts to a computer video camera, a person who is deaf can now call a video interpreter, who will become their voice. The interpreter can then translate into sign language what the hearing person on the other end of the line is saying.

The technology has been available in Hawaii for the past year.

Those who have used it are raving about it. It also means deaf people can use the phone to find employment, and to keep a job.

"Like five years ago, people who had a job could be turned down for jobs because of not being able to use the phone. So now they have equal access. They can call in. They can call out. People can call them," said Jane Knox of Relay Hawaii.

The phones are available free to the deaf through Relay Hawaii. The phones are also at vocational rehab offices around the state for those who don't have high-speed Internet access.

While deaf people think its great, it also means something to those who can hear. Matusof said his hearing friends have told him they love the service too.

"It was like I was talking with a normal person. It went right back and forth. I said something. you said something. It was great. It was really a wonderful thing," Matusof said.

Related Links:

Copyright 2004 by All rights reserved.