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Video Relay Phone for the Deaf is Newest Service in ACS/Adaptive Lab

By Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Student Computing Services Manager

a picture of the Sorenson VRS
The Sorenson VRS camera "observes" the ACS Adaptive lab consultants and manager taking pictures of it!

In November, the ACS/Adaptive General Access Computer Lab located in ISB 110 received a video relay service (VRS) phone from Sorenson Media of Salt Lake City, Utah. As described by the company's website, "Sorenson Video Relay Service (VRS) is a free service for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community that enables anyone to conduct video relay calls with family, friends, or business associates through a certified ASL interpreter via a broadband Internet connection and a video relay solution (or VRS call option). " This service is already in use throughout North Texas and its implementation in the Lewisville Independent School District was recently featured in the Dallas Morning News.

The Sorenson media website further describes how the system works and provides a diagram: "Video relay calls are placed over a high speed or broadband Internet connection (i.e. DSL, cable, or T1 line) through an easy-to-use Sorenson VP-100 videophone appliance connected to a TV, or through a personal computer equipped with a Web camera and Sorenson EnVision SL (or Microsoft NetMeeting) software. The deaf user sees an ASL interpreter on their TV and signs to the interpreter, who then contacts the hearing user via a standard phone line and relays the conversation between the two parties. Hearing customers can also place video relay calls to any deaf or hard-of-hearing individual by simply dialing the toll free number with a standard telephone."

diagram of how the system works

What makes this system so terrific is that it cannot only be used by students who are deaf to communicate with other deaf persons using the language they know best; it also allows hearing persons to communicate with the deaf more effectively. Additionally, students who are deaf will be helped considerably in all their phone transactions as they can sign to the Sorenson ASL interpreter and have that employee then talk to a hearing person on the other end. This is a great improvement over the dated TTY system because there is no need to wait for typed input and no need for a special TTY number or service to be provided by a company on the other end.

All ACS/Adaptive lab consultants have been thoroughly trained on the Sorenson VRS and are ready to help patrons use this new free service. Additionally, the lab technology team is preparing a step-by-step tutorial on using the system which will be featured in the January issue of Benchmarks Online. In the meantime, any and all interested UNT community members can come in for one-on-one instruction from the lab consultants. The carpentry shop is busy building a privacy screen for the VRS station so that patrons can have privacy and confidentiality when using the phone. For additional information about this great new hardware contact Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner for details.



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