Three years later, the company improved its picture clarity and introduced the "emotional intonation" feature, considered important components of visual language. But at present, only 10% of the deaf and hard-of-hearing know about VRS. The Internal Revenue Service refuses to accept VRS calls. And VRS can be performed only with high-speed internet access. But companies, like Sorenson, provide videophones for free. Those who have no high-speed internet access or a videophone may use IPP relay. It is similar to the outdated TTY but performs faster and more smoothly. The deaf user types his message on a computer.
For the working deaf who need to use the telephone, Able Planet launched the wireless device. This is a telephone and a hands-free set for a cell phone to address these difficulties in the use of a telephone. The technology enables wireless communication with a telecoil in hearing aids. At the same time, it promises to eliminate noise interferences. Trial users at the Colorado State University said the phones had a 81.6% satisfaction rate for discriminating words while traditional handsets with compatible hearing aids produced only 52.6%. Inventor Jo Waldron said that it was an option for approximately 34 million Americans with mild to severe hearing loss. It costs $34.95 for cell phones as compared with land-line telephones at $65.95.
More Technology for Deaf Workers
Another recent technology is an avatar, which can translate spoken works into sign language. Created by IBM Corporation, this technology is intended for the real world in the absence of an interpreter for the deaf or for confidential conversations. It is, however, in prototype form and is compatible only with the British sign language. It is known as SiSi or "Say It Sign It." It uses speech recognition to convert a conversation into text. Sisi then translates the text into gestures of sign language. An avatar then animates and carries it out. SiSi is designed to allow incorporation into other vendors' deaf-accessibility products and other countries' sign.
Sign language translation uses visual finger-spelling of words and phrases. It translates text into sign language images or animations in communicating or obtaining information. Voice transmission in mobile devices and mobile phones is an example. Sign language recognition consists of gestures and/or sign language made through the computer. Automatic speech recognition or ASR is an independent computer-driven transcription of spoken language into readable text in real time. The computer identifies the words spoken into a microphone and converts these into written text, which the deaf can read. And the i-phone has a built-in camera and a wifi connection. The deaf user can call an interpreter from the i-phone to interpret what he says to a hearing party or vice-versa.
Distance Technology for the Deaf in Rural Areas
Work with the deaf and hard of hearing people in the rural areas in the past was limited by certain conditions.. A lack of interpreters, social resources and cultural, language and legal understanding by the service provider were among them. The Utah Deaf Videoconferencing Model offers to fill the voids. This distance technology is used for tele-health, tele-medicine and tele-education through electronic communications and information technology. Deaf tele-psychiatry has been in use in South Carolina since 1994. A psychiatrist innovator was unable to drive to distances to provide the service to 300 clients on account of pregnancy. The State built a videoconferencing network from her home to the sites where her clients lived. The application proved quite successful in that State.
The CAP for Disabled Federal Employees
Employees at the U.S. Department of Defense with hearing problems can now do their work better through the Computer/Electronics Accommodation Program or CAP. This technology helps in the hiring process of employees with long-term disabilities, such as deafness and blindness. The technology is also helpful to employees who experience repetitive stress injuries in later life, loss of sight or wounds that make it hard for them to work on the computer screen throughout the day.
CAP provides speech recognition software, computer screen magnification programs and talking dictionaries. The speech recognition software is for employees who find it hard to use a keyboard. Computer screen magnification programs are for those visual impairments. And talking dictionaries are those with cognitive problems.
In Search of a Telecommunication Standard
Title 4 of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires telephone companies to make interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services available all hours of the day and all days of the week. Telecommunications relay services, or TRS, enable the deaf to communicate with one another through a third-party assistant. But the large gap between typing speed and the speed of signing or receiving interpretations remained a problem. Alexander Graham Bell's invention evolved from his desire to help the deaf communicate but telephone standards had for years been established with little consideration for its use precisely by the deaf. The result was that millions of them confronted substantial barriers in using the telephone. They must constantly contend with changing designs and features of assistive devices and in different locations. As these cost a lot, the deaf are confined to a few choices and at higher prices.
A Universal Design
The best would be a universal design approach. From the concept to the development and manufacture phases, the product would be usable by as many prospective persons as possible. This design is within the purview of the ADA, which mandates the provision of technological support for people with disabilities with reasonable accommodations. However, some employers are apprehensive about the bother and the costs of accommodations such support may incur. And deaf or disabled employees or applicants are reluctant to seek out such technology in fear of the employer's disfavor. A compromise becomes necessary. Technology must be available in the workplace and more inclusively designed after the needs of the disabled. At the same time, it must be consumer-directed so that the decision-making aspect moves from the employer to the consumer. The private sector, thus, must be motivated to develop and market such technology. A fund should be crated to finance the accommodations, such as through payroll tax deduction.
The Shape of the Future
Contemporary times demand that appropriate technology be developed for the use of disabled employees so that they are not left out of the benefits promised by civil rights laws. Implementing civil rights or encouraging a market-based approach is not enough to fulfill this goal. What alone can is a combination of new technology and civil rights with the precise market-based approach. In solving discrimination and compensating for limited opportunities for deaf or disabled employees, nothing less than innovative and inclusively-designed and consumer-directed technology is needed. This is the truly responsive option.
The Deaf Culture, a Chronic Brunt
One obstacle to the complete success of technology for the deaf is the deaf culture. That the deaf have a culture of their own is something recognized only in 1965 with the publication of the Dictionary of American Sign Language. Hearing people saw the deaf only as having hearing loss without realizing that the deaf have their own learning behaviors, values, rules and a shared language. Thus, they naturally resist technology, which will breach their culture of deafness. But the reality is that no one can escape or resist the power and influence of technology. Protectors of the deaf culture only need to become more aware of the advantages and benefits of technology and that it need not destroy their culture.
More Miracles on the Way
Every few minutes today, an innovation is created. Science will always endeavor to make life easier and more enjoyable as well as correct past errors or negligence. There is no way to stop it. Future technology will restore what it took away from the working deaf in the past. Professor Clark accomplished the first major step in that direction in the form of a technological miracle, the "bionic ear." #
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