Connecticut Dept. of Labor — Gift of Opportunity

sound tech for deaf and hard of hearing Todays Health ad

Connecticut Dept. of Labor — Gift of Opportunity

Jane, a 20-year-old English major at an Ivy-League university, has been deaf since early childhood. She loves reading the classic plays of Shakespeare and Marlowe—but she also wants to be able to participate in seminar classes where she can learn the perspectives of her professors and hearing peers.

At first, Jane’s college offered to provide a note-taker in her classes who could transcribe the classroom discussion and give her a written copy after the class ended. Jane pointed out, though, that this solution would still prevent her from participating in the class as it was going on.

Fortunately, these days there are many assistive technologies that can help Jane participate fully in her college classes, and can continue to assist her and other students who are deaf as they move from college to work. Due to increasing scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice, schools are beginning to take more seriously their obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide technologies allowing an equal educational experience for students with disabilities—technologies, for example, that provide communication in real time.

The following paragraphs describe some of the newer communication products for people with hearing loss, reviewed by writer Courtney Gale (who is deaf and is currently a communications major at Florida Atlantic University). Most of the products can be acquired either through easy payment plans or free through the state vocational rehabilitation center or the state Telecommunications Relay Service.


C-Print technology was developed by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, located at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. C-Print is a speech-to-text access system that uses shorthand typing to condense text, while still including as much information as possible. C-Print captionists go through an online training session—in addition to a real-time face-to-face training program—to learn the C-Print abbreviation system and condensing strategies, as well as techniques for preparing real-time notes and using speech-recognition features to input text. After training, the captionists use C-Print Pro software (which is loaded onto a laptop or other portable device) to record classes, while the students they are assisting are able to read the text in real time as it appears in front of them, either on a linked laptop or a projection screen visible to all. Most often the captionist’s computer and student’s computer are linked wirelessly, although schools may also use local area network (LAN) cards for multiple students reading the captionist’s input text.


On the other end of the spectrum is the iCommunicator, a speech-recognition system available from PRP Inc. that requires no typist. Instead, the instructor speaks into a microphone, and the system uses Nuance Communications’ Dragon NaturallySpeaking software to automatically translate speech into text, sign language video or both.

In theory, the system is a very powerful tool. iCommunicator has bunches of buttons to fiddle with—the text’s color and size can be changed, and the sign-video translator can be speeded up or slowed down. Heck, the gadget even speaks. For the technologically savvy, it’s heaven on earth. But like any complex technology, the system requires a lot of homework and preparation before users can take advantage of it.

The biggest drawback of any speech recognition system—including iCommunicator—is that it can take a while to train, as the computer needs to learn the idiosyncrasies of each voice pattern. Unfortunately, this process can take an hour or more at times for each individual who will be speaking. Thus, every school year, all new instructors for the student in question would have to go through this programming, possibly multiple times as they teach the system through trial and error. The same would hold true in the work setting for every new businessperson pitching an idea.

Additionally, there is always at least one person who feels he or she must speak at the speed of light. Unless the software is loaded onto a powerful computer with a very fast processor, the system will end up lost (and so will the hard-of-hearing person using it).

Despite these possible issues to troubleshoot, iCommunicator offers the advantage of being run totally by the

computer. It never gets sick or stuck in traffic, never finds itself daydreaming, and doesn’t fall prey to the inevitable limitations of human error. And slacking off is not ....Continued in ABILITY Magazine

by Courtney Gale
State VCO Relay Numbers

ABILITY Magazine
Other articles in the Ed Begley issue include Senator Harkin — Securing America’s Energy Future; Humor Therapy— Don’t Go There; Recipes — Healthy Drinks;Rights or Wrongs — Legal Stories From DLRC; Elegy For A Disease — A Personal History of Polio; Learning Katrina’s Lessons — Disaster Preparedness; Healthy Environment — Steps We All Can Take; Healing Our Soldiers — Hawaii’s MRPU; The Secret Vote — Making Voting Accessible; Book Excerpt — Widening the Circle; Events and Conferences...subscribe

Excerpts from the Ed Begley issue:

Ed Begley Jr. and Rachelle Carson — Interview

Service Animals — Barking up the Right Tree

Connecticut Dept. of Labor — Gift of Opportunity

Dystonia — Deep Brain Stimulation and Medtronic

Sound Technology — For the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Better Off Dead — Suicidality

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