Deaf and hard-of-hearing students, faculty and community members on the Kapiʻolani Community College campus can now call deaf or hearing people from the public videophone at Kapiʻolani’s Lama Library—the only library in the state providing this free service.
Through sponsorship by Sorenson Communications, the videophone and privacy booth are available on the first floor of the library near the computer commons. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people who rely on sign language to communicate can connect directly with friends and family who have videophones or use a video relay service, which provides an American Sign Language interpreter to relay conversations between a deaf person on a videophone and a hearing person on a telephone.
“Think of it as a deaf payphone that’s free,” says Kevin Roddy, the Kapiʻolani librarian who brought the phone to the facility.
The teletypewriter, or TTY, was the first technological breakthrough for the deaf community. Essentially an early form of text messaging, TTY allowed deaf individuals to send and receive typed messages via telephone service. But users type in a shorthanded English—often using arcane abbreviations such as GA for “go ahead” or SK (stop keying) for “goodbye”—instead of ASL, the language more comfortable and natural to them, Roddy says.
“Widespread availability of laptops, WiFi and broadband extends the videophone’s reach as a way for the deaf and hard of hearing to conduct business and personal calls with hearing people,“ he says. “Web services like Yahoo’s Babelfish and Google Translate, which offer instant written translations of spoken languages, and the phenomenal growth of text and smart phones and video cams are breaking down barriers of communication.”