BIDMC Installs Sorenson Communications Videophone for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Patients

New Videophone Enables Individuals Who Use American Sign Language to Place Free Calls through an On-Screen Interpreter

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Zineb Marchoudi, Newsletter of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center—
A Teaching Hospital of Harvard Medical School, April 7, 2009

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has installed a Sorenson videophone - a device that enables Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing callers to conduct conversations through a video relay system using American Sign Language (ASL). The service allows patients to call other Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing people directly, or a non-Deaf person using an online qualified ASL interpreter. BIDMC is one of the first hospitals in the Northeast with a videophone system in a central, public lobby.

“I am thrilled that BIDMC can provide this service for our Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing patients to communicate in their primary language of ASL,” said Shari Gold-Gomez, Interpreter Services. “It allows them to fully express themselves during calls to hearing individuals or other Deaf individuals.”

To use a videophone, the Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing person enters the phone number of the hearing individual they are calling on the videophone. The videophone is connected to a television and high-speed Internet. A qualified ASL interpreter appears on the screen, connects them, and relays the conversation between them and the hearing party receiving the call on a standard phone line.

“English is often a second language for many Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people so this is a better way for them to communicate than typing on a TTY device,” said Robert Chiaramonte, C.I., C.T., Legal C-6, Interpreter Services. “This technology allows Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals to use ASL, which for them is their native language.”

The video relay service is a welcome alternative after years of text-based messaging, which often requires turn-taking and long waits for messages to be delivered. By contrast, the video phone connects Deaf individuals with the hearing world in real-time.

"The goal is to break down communication barriers and give equal access to the Deaf community to make phone calls while they are at the medical center,” said Gold-Gomez. “This device will provide an essential service for all patients and families to relay important health care information and to notify anyone who is concerned about a patient's condition."

From the BIDMC Newsletter. Reprinted with permission. Back to Article List