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New Internet-based tool aids communication for deaf

Craig Chamberlain, Education Editor
(217) 333-2894;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Deaf persons and those with whom they communicate now have a powerful tool at their disposal – a free Internet-based video relay system – which will get a local demonstration on Wednesday (March 19) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.

The demonstration will be at 6:30 p.m. in Room 2 of the Education Building, 1310 S. Sixth St., Champaign. The public and news media are invited to attend.

The video relay system is the latest in an evolution of technologies and services developed to serve the communication needs of deaf people, said Jenny Singleton, a professor of educational psychology, who helped organize the event.

The system makes it possible for deaf people to interact by phone with hearing people who do not know sign language, but without the need for typing text, as is required in TTY and other relay systems, Singleton said.

To make a call, the person using the system connects with the service over a high-speed Internet connection, then signs instructions to a translator by way of computer-mounted video cameras. The translator phones the other party, then acts as the go-between in the conversation that follows, translating sign language to voice and vice versa.

The system already has found other uses, Singleton said, such as in medical and law enforcement situations where an on-site translator is not readily available.

Conducting the demonstration and explaining the service will be representatives from Sprint Relay, the Illinois Telecommunications Access Corp. and the local PACE (Persons Assuming Control of Their Environment) organization

For additional information, contact Jenny Singleton at (217) 244-1098 or Chris Harris at (217) 244-8335.