:: USA Congress Learns About VRS ::

USA Congress Learns About VRS: ”

All..

Notes (see below)from TDI regarding US Congress being enlightened on VRS.

This is good cuz the Congress needs to know that VRS is here to stay and that VRS needs attention from the FCC as well as USA Congress. There are several issues that either both or one of these powerful institutions need to address regarding VRS. We need to make sure VRS is especially accessible by wide variety of deaf and hard of hearing persons – more so in the rural country – out in the boondocks (like myself) where high speed broadband services are scarce. The affordability issue should also be taken into consideration as well.

In my last town hall meeting down the Valley in deep South Texas, I was ‘floored’ when I learned that wireless service in rural area costs about $250 to $300 a month. The USA Congress simply must make high speed broadband available AND affordable in rural areas.

eyes open & thumbs up,

Ed
RT Admin.

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TDI-L eNotes 3/5/2007 – Press Release –

U.S. Congress Learns How Video Relay Service is Revolutionizing Communication Between Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing and America
Consumer Groups Call on Legislators and Regulators to Make Video Telephony Universally Available.

WASHINGTON D.C. (February 28 & March 1, 2007) Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDI), National Association for the Deaf (NAD), and Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network (DHHCAN) co-sponsored two Video Relay Service (VRS) demonstrations in the United States Senate Russell Office Building on Wednesday February 28 and for the House of Representatives in the Cannon Office Building on March 1 in Washington, D.C.

VRS is the first telecommunications relay service that enables individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing to communicate in their native language, American Sign Language (ASL). Deaf and hard of hearing consumers ‘ for the first time ‘ can place calls in sign language to their hearing family members, friends, and business associates. And, through VRS, hearing individuals can easily converse with deaf and hard of hearing loved ones and colleagues.

Using ultra-modern videophone technology hooked up to a television with a high-speed Internet connection, a deaf or hard of hearing user signs to a sign language interpreter on the TV set, who then contacts the hearing user via a standard telephone line and relays the conversation between the two parties.

Bobbie Beth Scoggins, President, National Association of the Deaf greeted the audience in both demonstrations. Ron Burdett, Vice President of Community Services, Sorenson Communications gave brief remarks, and introduced Marlee Matlin, an Academy Award winner for Best Actress for the film, ‘Children of A Lesser God.’ Matlin demonstrated the use of the VRS technology, and gave an inspiring testimonial on the importance of VRS in her life. Claude Stout, Executive Director, TDI, and Chair, DHHCAN closed the demonstrations with a call for action on the part of Congress and FCC to make VRS universally available in all areas of America. As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Congress together or independently examine emerging broadband technology issues, Stout reiterated that ‘…well-defined regulations, sufficient funding, aggressive outreach efforts, technological innovation (research and development), high-speed service deployment, and cost-effective call centers be in place in the immediate future for us to enjoy full benefits of VRS as an evolving, empowering TRS service.’

Senators Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) were the honorary hosts of the demonstration in the Senate, and Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Fred Upton (R-MI) were the hosts in the House. U.S. Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) took part in the Senate demonstration with Ms. Matlin, while Rep. Markey and Mr. Jay Keithley, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, FCCparticipated in two demonstrations with Ms. Matlin on the House side.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires the provision of telecommunications services for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, and VRS is rapidly becoming the service and technology of choice for those who use American Sign Language. The Federal Communications Commission administers the program that supports VRS and other telecommunications options for people with communication disabilities.

Twelve companies which distribute equipment and provide interpreting services for Video Relay Services throughout America are: AT&T, CAC, CSDVRS, GoAmerica, HandsOn, Hamilton, LifeLinks, Nordia, SNAP VRS!, Sorenson Communications, Sprint, and Verizon.

About TDI
Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI) promotes equal access to telecommunications, media, and information technology for 31 million Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and deaf-blind. TDI educates and encourages consumer involvement regarding legal rights to telecommunications accessibility; provides technical assistance and consultation to industry, associations, and individuals; encourages accessible applications of existing and emerging telecommunications and media technologies in all sectors of the community; advises on and promotes the uniformity of standards for telecommunications technologies; works in collaboration with other disability organizations, government, industry, and academia; develops and advocates national policies that support accessibility issues; and publishes ‘The GA-SK’ quarterly news magazine and the annual Blue Book, TDI National Directory & Resource Guide for Equal Access in Telecommunications and Media for People Who Are Deaf, Late-Deafened, Hard-of-Hearing or Deaf-Blind.

About NAD
National Association of the Deaf, founded in 1880, safeguards the civil rights of deaf and hard of hearing Americans. As a national federation of state associations, individual members, and organizational and corporate affiliates, the advocacy work of the NAD encompasses a broad spectrum of areas including, but not limited to, accessibility, education, employment, healthcare, mental health, rehabilitation, technology, telecommunications, and transportation.

About DHHCAN
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network (DHHCAN), established in 1993, serves as the national coalition of organizations representing the interests for deaf and/or hard of hearing citizens in public policy and legislative issues relating to rights, quality of life, equal access, and self-representation. DHHCAN also provides a forum for proactive discussion on issues of importance and movement toward universal, barrier-free access with emphasis on quality, certification and standards. The member organizations of DHHCAN include the American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB), the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association (ADARA), the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA), the American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC), the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD), Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), Deaf Seniors of America (DSA), Gallaudet University, Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA), National Association of the Deaf (NAD), National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA), National Catholic Office of the Deaf (NCOD), Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc.(TDI), USA Deaf Sports Federation (USADSF), and The Caption Center/WGBH.

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