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Telecoms opening up for deaf callers

Darren Murph

UK surveys suggesting that deaf / blind individuals weren't having their needs met by technology has evidently spurred the Royal National Institute for Deaf (RNID) and a Bedfordshire-based firm to create alternatives that assist the hard of hearing with communicating freely on phone / conference calls. While there are offerings that convert voicemail to SMS and give movie-goers textual representations of the script, these two outfits are looking to spruce up the generally poor telecommunication options available for the deaf. RNID is unveiling a ScreenPhone, which allows hearing impaired people to speak to another recipient, while a tuned-in translator converts his / her replies into text seen on the unit's monochrome LCD. This Typetalk service is presumably included gratis with the purchase of the £200 ($373) device, but disclosing those juicy date details with a third wheel on the line could cause a bit of embarrassment for all parties involved. Nevertheless, Teletec is offering up a similar service which doesn't require a special phone, but instead utilizes any internet-connected device to display text that an "online operator" channels to their screen. This convenience, however, will run you a whopping £1 ($1.89) per minute, so callers should probably keep those messages short and sweet should they opt for this. Both UK-based services will be launching "early next year," and will likely be huge upgrades from that lamentable lip-reading contraption currently available.

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