New generation of tactile devices to aid the deaf

3 03 2009

by Rich Bowden – Mar 2 2009

Img: Tactile deaf aid device being used by Senior Research Scientist Charlotte Reed and research graduate student Theodore Moallem. Credit: Donna Coveney/MIT

Img: Tactile deaf aid device being used by Senior Research Scientist Charlotte Reed and research graduate student Theodore Moallem. Credit: Donna Coveney/MIT


Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States are developing a device which can translate sound waves as vibrations able to be felt by the skin.



The technology will aid deaf people who currently rely on the imperfect lip reading as a means of communication. The tactile device is being worked on by the institute for those who are unable to afford the often prohibitive cost of cochlear implants.

“Most deaf people will not have access to that technology in our lifetime,” said Ted Moallem, a graduate student working on the project in a Feb. 27 Institute statement. “Tactile devices can be several orders of magnitude cheaper than cochlear implants.”

According to the MIT news release: Moallem and Charlotte Reed, senior research scientist in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics and leader of the project, say the tactile software they are developing could be compatible with current smart phones, allowing such devices to be transformed into unobtrusive tactile aids for the deaf.

“Anyone who has a smart phone already has much of what they would need to run the program,” including a microphone, digital signal-processing capability, and a rudimentary vibration system , says Moallem.



Though tactile devices have been in use for decades, the team hope to improve on these by providing deaf people with tactile cues that are tailored to boost lip-reading performance, says Reed.

The inspiration for the project came from the Tadoma technique, where deaf/blind people hold their hands to someone’s face while they talk to “feel” vibrations. The technique allows deaf/blind people to understand what is being spoken, so long as the person spoke clearly.

“We were inspired by seeing what deaf-blind people could accomplish just using the sense of touch alone,” says Reed.

Funding for the project was provided by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.


Video phones improve communication for the deaf

23 02 2009

2/19/2009 11:17 AM
By: Bonnie Gonzalez

Interpreting Manager Byron Bridges.  
At a call center full of employees, complete silence might be an indicator of an unproductive staff, but the silence at one Waco call center doesn’t mean that at all.
Communication Service for the Deaf is the first center of its kind in Waco.
“This service provides them access so that they can communicate with hearing people, or for hearing people to communicate with deaf people. It works both ways,” Interpreting Manager Byron Bridges said.

More Information
Web Extras
More Information

• Find more information at the Communication Service for the Deaf Web site.

• Learn more about CSD Contact Centers

• Read about CSD’s Core Competencies.

• Check out SIGNews, a newspaper for the signing community.

At the new call center in Waco, two full time interpreters and five part-time interpreters answer calls.
“And so the deaf individual with their video phone at home calls the operator here and say ‘Call my doctor,’ for example,” Bridges said.


See the video

With the video phone, you can see emotion.  

Texas State Technical College student Eduardo Accardte agrees.





Copyright ©2009TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin

New technology opens up the world for hearing-impaired students

9 02 2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Charleston,IL—Hearing-impaired students at Charleston High School, Middle School and Jefferson Elementary School recently were able to use the latest technology has to offer.

It was their first time to use the video relay service that is now available at all three schools.

The Sorenson Video Relay Service is a free 24-hour service for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community that allows them to place phone calls in order to do business, as well as communicate with friends.

“There’s so much new technology and, of course, with cell phone texting, the hearing impaired can do things any other teen can do,” said Mary Gherardini, principal of the hearing impaired program.

The TTY, a text telephone, with its keyboard, message display, and light that announces incoming messages, has been around for a long time, and it keeps students connected.

And now, technology has provided the video phone and the Video Relay Service that connects them not only to those who are also hearing impaired, but to hearing friends and family members as well through a high-speed Internet connection, a camera, and the telephone.

The video phone is connected either to a television or personal computer equipped with a Web camera and the necessary software.

At CHS last week, hearing impaired students who are mainstreamed into the careers in applied technology class and their classmates tried out the new VRS system, interviewing each other through a relay interpreter.

A hearing-impaired student signed a message on camera to the interpreter, who appeared on a television screen. The interpreter then telephoned the classroom and talked to a hearing student.

The interpreter translated the student’s questions into sign language for the hearing-impaired student and then relayed his answers by phone to the hearing student, allowing an interview to take place amid much laughter and teasing.

The VRS interpreter uses American Sign Language.

“ASL is considered a foreign language, and just like any foreign language, the syntax is different,” Gherardini said. “ASL is a beautiful language where one sign can mean different things.

“There’s a lot of gesturing and movements mean something. The word order is not the English word order.

“ASL is taught in universities as a foreign language credit,” she said. “It really is the language of the deaf.”

Gherardini said it was sad that after school, hearing-impaired students — some of whom ride the bus an hour or more every morning and afternoon — couldn’t talk to their friends.

“When they went home, they couldn’t call on the phone like adolescents and teenagers do,” she said. “Communicating with each other is a big part of teenagers’ lives and they were never able to do that.

“When TTYs came, the world opened up to them. I’ve had deaf people tell me they didn’t feel so isolated anymore.”

The biggest problem, Gherardini said, was when the person needed to call to a speaking person — to call 911, call the police, or to make an appointment.

“So then there was also a relay system. The relay was a central place that had an operator who also had a TTY. The operator would get the message and relay it to the doctor or the police or whomever needed to be called,” she said.

“Now, because of all the new technology, the hearing impaired can communicate with anyone and it’s not isolating or limiting in any way.

“We’ve come to the next level with the video phone and the VRS,” Gherardini said. “Messages come across in letters like with the TTYs. Instead, you see the person signing and for the very young person who doesn’t know the keyboard or for the person who has lost dexterity for some reason and can’t type, this is great.”

The Hearing-Impaired Program has been in the Charleston schools for more than 30 years, Gherardini said.

“It started with four children whose parents wanted them to be able to stay at home and go to school locally, not go to Jacksonville to the Illinois School for the Deaf. From that, it grew to the preschool through high school that we have here today.”

The Hearing-Impaired Program through the Eastern Illinois Area Special Education Cooperative serves children in 29 school districts in eight counties.

“Some students have most of their classes in the hearing impaired classroom,” Gherardini said.

“In the elementary grades we try to give them as much language as we can — everything they need academically, plus the signing, so they will learn to the maximum extent.

“As they get older, if they’re at grade level, we mainstream them with an interpreter. An interpreter might go to a classroom with two students. We also have interpreters who go with just one student,” she said.

“If we have a student who takes trigonometry and the others don’t, the interpreter goes with that one. This year, we have a student who wants to take Spanish, so there will be one student, one interpreter.”

The goal of the program is to meet the individual needs of every hearing-impaired student, Gherardini said.

“The students succeed. They graduate and go on to training programs, community colleges and universities. They have options.”

DTV for the Deaf

9 02 2009

Sioux Falls company is helping deaf consumers

DTV for the Deaf

By KSFY Staff

“When a deaf person sits down and enjoys the analog TV, and all of the sudden, it becomes static, they’re going to wonder where to go for help,” says Dr. Bobbie Beth Scoggins, COO for Communications Service for the Deaf. It’s those very reasons why the CSD has developed a new service to help consumers.

Communications Director Derric Miller explains the program; “we’ll be launching a help center; which is a call center and also a new website. This is all to inform the nation’s deaf and hard of hearing people of the DTV transition.”

“I think they are sitting in their living rooms enjoying TV as they know it today, but they don’t know what will be taking place,” explains Scoggins. “We can do outreach and disseminate information and build things like this call center and this website,” adds Miller.

While this new service is certainly targeted towards the deaf and hard of hearing, the help center is open to anyone who might have questions. “Our help center is prepared to provide you with a great deal of information,” Scoggins said.

The CSD has hired a staff of hearing people as well those fluent in sign language, so if a deaf person prefers to see and use sign language, they can do so via video phone.

The new help center will launch Monday, with the opening of the phone lines and grand opening of the website. To visit that help center website, click here.

Department of Commerce Selects the VPAD+ for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Employees

5 02 2009

WiFi videophone VPAD+ selected as workplace accommodation for deaf and hard of hearing employees at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Videophone will enable employees who use sign language users to access video relay services for telephone calls.

Rockville, MD (PRWEB) February 4, 2009 — The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) has chosen the VPAD+ as the videophone of choice for its deaf and hard of hearing employees. The VPAD+ is a lightweight, standalone VOIP videophone with a 10.2″ touchscreen monitor, WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities and enables sign language users to place phone calls by videoconferencing with interpreters specially trained to relay phone conversations.

News Image

This is another resounding endorsement from the Federal Government

After reviewing available options in the marketplace, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Taskforce decided that the VPAD+ was the most impressive technology and best met the agency’s needs. The VPAD+ offers customized advantages that will improve communication with coworkers and boost workplace productivity.

Viable, a deaf-owned and deaf-operated provider of video relay services (VRS), developed the VPAD+ so deaf and hard of hearing people could access the telephone system with forward-looking technology. The VPAD+ is interoperable with 10-digit telephone numbers and has USB ports for Bluetooth-enabled headsets, providing hard of hearing people with amplification options.

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Taskforce at the Department of Commerce evaluated videophones from several VRS providers and ultimately selected the VPAD+. This DOC decision marks the second Federal-level approval for the VPAD+ within a span of a week. On January 29, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) approved the VPAD+ for distribution, at no cost, to deaf and hard of hearing Federal employees who work for the Department of Defense or any of the 65 CAP partner agencies (read the announcement here).

“This is another resounding endorsement from the Federal Government,” said Shane Feldman, who manages government relations for Viable. “After reviewing available options in the marketplace, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Taskforce decided that the VPAD+ was the most impressive technology and best met the agency’s needs. The VPAD+ offers customized advantages that will improve communication with coworkers and boost workplace productivity.”

Federal employees and IT technicians interested in the VPAD+ may contact with questions or see whether their agency is a CAP member at CAP’s website. Specifications, video clips, and further information on the VPAD+ are available at Viable’s VPAD+ product page.

About Viable, Inc.
Viable develops videophones and provides next-generation video relay services for deaf and hard of hearing persons, opening them to a world of communication possibilities. Founded in 2006, Viable is a private, deaf-owned company, and many employees are deaf and hard of hearing and are personally vested in the innovation and development of the company’s products and services. Visit for further information.

About Telecommunications Relay Services
Mandated by Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, telecommunications relay services (TRS) enables individuals with hearing or speech disabilities to achieve functional equivalence by accessing telephone systems to place or receive calls through an intermediary known as a relay operator or relay interpreter. Emergent IP technology has given rise to video-based solutions, which are known as video relay services (VRS). VRS options include using a webcam or a videophone to connect to a video relay interpreter, and allow deaf and hard of hearing callers for whom sign language is native to fully achieve the ideal of functional equivalence.

Order system helps hearing impaired

26 01 2009

News from Indy Star

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Deaf and hard-of-hearing customers use a buzzer at the drive through to let Culver’s employees Know they need assistance. Jeff Meyer, who owns the restaurant along 96th Street on the Northeast side, said he had the system installed to make hearing-impaired customers feel comfortable and welcome.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing customers use a buzzer at the drive through to let Culver’s employees Know they need assistance. Jeff Meyer, who owns the restaurant along 96th Street on the Northeast side, said he had the system installed to make hearing-impaired customers feel comfortable and welcome.

For most, a quick trip to a restaurant drive-through for a cup of coffee or a burger is a convenience, but for the deaf and hard of hearing, these fixtures aren’t user-friendly.

One area franchise changed that setup. Culver’s, a Wisconsin chain of more than 370 individually owned restaurants in 17 states, offers a program called OrderAssist at its Northeastside location on 96th Street as well as its Greenfield branch.

OrderAssist lets the deaf and hard of hearing order at the drive-through window by using a buzzer system.

Customers use the buzzer to alert employees that they need assistance, then they pull up to the service window, where they can receive an order form to complete. The cost for the order is written down for the customer.

Jeff Meyer, owner of the 96th Street and Greenfield locations, installed OrderAssist nearly two years ago. The system costs $1,500, including installation, and a tax credit may be available.

“I thought to myself, ‘If I was deaf, what would be beneficial to me, to help me feel more comfortable in coming into the establishment and enjoying a peaceful meal?” Meyer said. “And to me, I would enjoy this. . . . It’s pretty basic, but the concept is unique, and people utilize it.”

More than 30 customers use the system each week at the 96th Street location, Meyer said.

George Martin, Fishers, is one of them. He noticed a restaurant sign calling attention to the service.

“(I) was shocked and happy to see that a restaurant was doing something to make ordering through the drive-through accessible for their deaf and hard-of-hearing customers,” Martin said in an e-mail. “After that, I became a regular customer. I also told many of my deaf friends, who were also surprised and pleased.”

OrderAssist is the brainchild of Patrick Hughes Jr., president of Inclusion Solutions, a Chicago company specializing in systems that increase business access for customers with disabilities. When a consultant mentioned the lack of accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing at drive-through restaurants, Hughes launched a survey to gauge interest in potential customers.

“In one month, we got 6,400 responses,” Hughes said, “and I have to say there were tears. It was like no one had ever asked them before.”

That doesn’t surprise Peter Bisbecos, director of the state’s Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services, part of the Family and Social Services Administration.

“When people think about access, what they usually think about is physical access. . . . They don’t think about communications issues,” Bisbecos said.

“Places have gotten better over time, but that’s an area where there still needs to be a lot more work done. It’s a learning process for people.”

As Hughes studied the market, he found some drive-through touch-screen technology but considered it cost-prohibitive for many small restaurants and individually owned franchises.

“If you bring in a $20,000 system, nobody’s going to be interested . . . but if you can bring in something that’s practical, and the deaf community’s happy with (it), then you have a winner,” he said. “That’s, in my opinion, what we’ve developed. A low-cost, low-tech, really simple, back-to-the-basics one-on-one communication.”

Culver’s became Hughes’ first OrderAssist client, agreeing to make the system available for purchase by its franchisees.

Meyer became one of the chain’s first owners to jump on board. While he’s glad the service attracted new repeat customers such as Martin, he insists monetary gain is neither the motivating factor, nor the most important result.

“I’m looking at this to be a system to help people come in and feel welcome and to have a seamless transaction where they don’t feel pressured. . . . If it was just two people coming in here and utilizing the system, that’s fine.”

Bisbecos hopes other area businesses would be open to such an approach. “Just being aware of a situation that might arise and being prepared to address it, you’re well ahead of the game.”

Copyright ©2009

(Arizona) Captioning service to assist hearing-impaired classmates

19 01 2009

News from Arizona Daily Wildcat

Friday, January 16, 2008

As the UA transformation cuts programming, the Disability Resource Center is launching a new service that will provide captioning for all in-class media including videotapes, DVDs, Web media and podcasts.

“The truth is the university has an obligation to post things for all students,” Disability Resource Center Associate Director Carol Funckes said. “The amount of videos and media available has grown so much, yet the technology available to the students has not caught up yet.”

Today will complete the first week of the new program.

In a press release distributed Jan. 8, the DRC asked all UA instructors to only use media in their classroom that is either closed or open captioned. Open captioning is visible to all students while closed captioning is an option that instructors can enable upon request.

If the instructor’s media is not captioned, the DRC said it is able to create captions.

“I had a student who is an agriculture major. He pulled up [the agriculture] website and the department head was speaking. There were no captions available for the student,” Disability access consultant Barbara Borich said. “We have also had complaints from students in Biology who use videotapes or stream videos on D2L that do not have captions.”

The DRC believes one benefit to the captioning program is that students will soon be able to use a search engine to find media.

Currently, media is not searchable, but with the implementation of the new program, all transcripts, key words, and titles will be easy for students to find.

The DRC is also asking that all online media, from YouTube or elsewhere, have captions.

Funckes said they are willing to provide the captioning services in order to make sure all hearing-impaired and deaf students on campus are able to have an equal learning opportunity.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act just requires accessibility to the materials,” Funckes said. “I know not everything can be captioned but we are trying to put U of A out in front.”

© 2009 Arizona Daily Wildcat