Technology for the Deaf

As beneficial as certain technological advances are for those who can hear, some devices are useless when it comes to the deaf community. Fortunately this isn't the case for all types of technology. In fact, there are a growing number of technological devices that are made specifically for the needs of deaf people. This includes technology that is geared toward deaf education as well as making life easier and safer for the deaf. Because deafness prevents people from being aware of many of the things that the hearing take for granted, much of the technology that is available is of an assistive nature.

Technology and Deaf Culture

A lot of modern technology is ideally suited for deaf culture. Text and instant messaging, for example, are beneficial to deaf people because they allow conversation between people regardless of whether or not they are deaf and they do not require the use of sign language. However, within the deaf community not everyone is accepting or open to technology bridging the gap between the hearing and the non-hearing. There are two groups within the community with differing opinions on the matter. There are people who refer to themselves as deaf with a lower case "d," and there are the Deaf with a capital "D." The Deaf group is one that takes pride in traditional forms of communication amongst deaf people and limits the use of technology as a way of communicating. For the deaf, technology enhances deaf culture and is positively looked upon.

Technology and Deaf Education

Deafness can have a major impact when it comes to learning, which makes deaf education an area that greatly benefits from the use of technology. When in a classroom environment, speech-to-text systems can prove beneficial to students without hearing. These systems convert spoken words into real-time, displayed text that students can read on their computers or on a screen that is displayed to the class. In addition to the real-time display of text, these systems also provide a print out or text file of the lecture.

Video Relay Service

Video relay service, or VRL, is a service that uses a computer and a web camera as a form of communication and requires the use of a third-party sign language interpreter. When a person that is deaf contacts someone who is not, he is able to communicate using sign language. A third-party interpreter verbally translates what is being said to the person that is receiving the call. When the hearing party responds, the translator uses sign language to relay the message back to the deaf individual using the web camera. This system may be used in the workplace and similar systems are also available for home use.

Home Technology for the Deaf

Technology has also changed the way deafness affects people in the deaf community in terms of everyday activities in their homes. Some devices are designed for safety, such as fire alarm lights that alert residents who are unable to hear audible fire alarms. Other technologies around the home are more for convenience than actual safety. For example, alarm clocks that vibrate the pillow or visual alert signals such as doorbell lights that announce visitors as opposed to a doorbell chime.