Sunday, August 1, 2010

Texting for the Deaf: a revolution

The parents of teenagers and young adults are often left bewildered about why their kids are constantly hunched over their cellular telephones, using only their thumbs to type messages faster than most people can type on a full-sized keyboard instead of just calling people and talking to them.

While many parents do not get it, text messaging is a form of communication that is here to stay, and for the deaf community, it has turned into an essential staple of giving and receiving information. The deaf saw the potential of text messaging shortly after it was first introduced in the late 1990s.

Alabama School for the Deaf principal Paul Millard said, “Some people here wanted to try it, but we didn’t have the (cellular) tower.”

Judith Gilliam, a board member of the Alabama Association of the Deaf and the National Association of the Deaf, said, “I remember a group of deaf people going to the council in Talladega begging for a tower to be set up there.”

It is no wonder the deaf community fought hard to have this service in the area. It effectively made the TTD (telecommunications device for the deaf) service of transmitting text through telephone lines instantly obsolete and lessened the need for a human relay operator.

The TTD systems connected to a telephone, and older versions could pass for a small piece of furniture due to their large size.

Rann Gordon, the director of services for the deaf at E.H. Gentry, said, “In the past we would call deaf people through the TTD, and we’d have to wait and wait and wait and didn’t know if they were home or not. Now with the BlackBerry, it saves time. We rarely use the (landline) phone or the TTDs.”

Matt Kochie, the assistive technology trainer for the deaf at E.H. Gentry, said, “Comparing now and 10 years ago, if there was no pager you’d have to go over to a friend’s house. With gas prices so high now, you can’t afford going back and forth.”

Gilliam said it also allows the deaf to be better informed about emergency situations, such as severe weather, because they can get alerts by cellular phone.

Text messaging has also changed dynamics in the work place.

Read more: The Daily Home - Texting A revolution in the way deaf people talk to the world

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