SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah company has developed a new phone that allows deaf people to communicate in ways that hearing people take for granted.
The ntouch VP2 video phone has a new feature called Group Call that lets the hearing impaired speak to more than one person at a time.
The phone was developed by Sorenson Communications in Salt Lake City with input from deaf people like Martin Price, who is also a community relations manager for the company.
“All of the calls I could ever do involved one person and now I can talk to three, four or five people at the same time and I don’t have to call and keep repeating the same message,” Price said. “Now I can get up to four people on a call and I can tell them what they need to do at the same time, so it keeps me feeling like part of a community.”
The technology can be used on a smart phone, tablet or computer. The phone allows deaf people to communicate with other hearing impaired people using American Sign Language, or talk to hearing people with an interpreter.
“Now I can sign very clearly and have an interpreter talk about anything, including they use my body language and facial expressions involved so the message is clearer,” Price said. “You can have conversations in real-time without technology getting in the way and it makes our life so much easier."
Sorenson Communications has provided Video Relay Services, or VRS, to help the deaf communicate by phone since 2003. Since that time the company has added more features like high-definition video, light rings that show the phone is ringing, and Sign Mail: a video message with ASL in case someone misses a call.
“Functional equivalence is something that deaf people want,” Price said. “They want what hearing people have.”
The technology may seem ordinary for hearing people, but Price said it is life changing for the deaf community.
“Oh it’s changed my life big time,” Price said. “I feel like I have access to the hearing world.”
Other companies do offer VRS calls for deaf people and some offer similar features. However, Sorenson Communications says it is the leader in the industry and handles more VRS calls than all of the other VRS companies combined.