New technology available for the deaf

Every branch of the Jacksonville library system offers videophones to communicate

January 17, 2008 By David Bauerlein, The Times-Union

The Jacksonville Public Library System has installed videophones for deaf people at all the library branches, which one manufacturer said appears to be the first time an entire library system has deployed the technology.

"It's at the top," said Ann Bardsley, spokeswoman for Sorenson Communications of Utah.

The main library in downtown Jacksonville has offered two videophones since 2006 for patrons. Sorenson Communications subsequently donated videophones for all the other libraries and installation was complete last month, said library spokeswoman Stacie Bucher.

Videophones use cameras so deaf people can communicate in sign language. The process is much faster than using teletype machines, and deaf people say video is more accurate because sign language carries different shades of meaning based on how a person gestures.

Deaf people also can obtain videophones for their homes. The Federal Communication Commission requires telephone companies to pay into a national fund that pays for the expense of the calls, including operators who act as interpreters when necessary. Companies pass that cost to all customers in the form of a fee.

The main financial obstacle to using videophones is they require high-speed Internet service.

"If a person can't afford a high-speed Internet connection, at least they can go to the library to make a call," said Cameron Tingey, a director of regional marketing for Sorenson.

Bucher said the library system already pays for high-speed Internet service at its branches so there is no added cost to offering the videophones. She said they are available at all branches during normal library hours. The system contains 21 libraries.

She said library officials have checked around and have not found any other library systems that offer the videophones at branches throughout the entire system.

From The Florida Times-Union. Reprinted with permission. Back to Article List