By Hugh Sasse <email@example.com>
Deafblind people face enormous communication problems, but not all deafblind people are profoundly deaf and totally blind. This is a proposal for a system that would allow a deaf person's text phone to be adapted for use by someone with low vision, by provision of a suitable display.
Many people are familiar with Braille, and they see it produced by large organizations for their blind customers. According to the BBC's programme "In Touch" there are 19,000 Braille users in the UK. According to RNIB there are about 21,000 deafblind people in the UK. Given that many of the braille users are just blind it is clear that lots of deafblind people are not braille users.
A person may be described as deafblind if they have any sight loss combined with any hearing loss. There is therefore a range of communication methods open to these people: some can manage lipreading, some sign language (if is is confined to a small area), and some can manage to use the telephone if it is amplified or with an inductive coupler to a hearing aid. However, not all are so fortunate. This project aims to find a solution for those with some sight who cannot see well enough to use a text telephone (textphone, Minicom, TTY, TDD) which they would use for telephone access otherwise.
The telephone has now become an almost indispensable form of communication, and for those who cannot see enough to use print, and cannot use braille, it may be their only possible way of communicating over a distance. The inability to use the phone impacts on their employability. Often, what is needed is just a textphone with a large, clear clear display. The current textphones with fluorescent displays are bright and clear in comparison to LCD displays but the characters are only formed from segments, and for people with retinal damage, and thus patchy vision, this can be a problem. Using a maginifier over the minicom is cumbersome, so a better option is a large display that con be coupled to the minicom.
So what is being proposed is a display for a textphone which is:
Ultratec, who make the minicom make a large print, fluorescent display. However they will not distribute it in the UK, because they say that BABT approval is too expensive for the market size. Given the number of people producing products for braille users I doubt this. So the aspects that make this project a challenge are:
It seems that similar problems are being faced in Australia.
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Last Modified 15-MAR-96 by James Gallagher