Inspired by a Lipreading Mom

A recent conversation with Shanna Groves and Marsha Graham regarding the Girl Scouts unwillingness to utilize interpreters, got me to thinking. The Internet is the greatest invention of the 20th century because it creates channels of access that were previously unavailable.

Blog publishing is one example. Prior to the Internet, those of us who wanted to write, needed either a publisher or steady media employment. Now, anybody with an Internet connection can be another Proust.

The same holds true with communications technologies for the Deaf. In the old days, an ASL interpreter was the only option open to Deaf people seeking to communicate with the hearing. Now, we have numerous Internet and intranet options.

One such option is C.A.R.T. or Computer Assisted Realtime Translation.  Here’s the link to the N.A.D. Page:

and here’s the Wiki page:

But there’s an option that I find even more exiting. Internet Interpreting. We already have videophone services that allow the Deaf to talk on regular phones without having to use the cumbersome typing keyboards associated with TTY communications.

Internet Interpreting would be essentially the same thing, but it could be done through something like Skype, allowing for interpreting services via laptop or even smartphone.

I don’t know if these services actually exist yet, but they should – and they can. They can be implemented fairly inexpensively, allow for increased employment and deployment of ASL interpreters, and vastly benefit both the Deaf and hearing communities.

The above image is a shot of dear old Eniac – the first real digital computer in the universe, circa 1944. It utilized tens of thousands of vacuum tubes, was programmed via punch tape and had the computing power of a modern digital wristwatch.

12 thoughts on “Inspired by a Lipreading Mom

  1. David – Thank you for the mention. Yes, I agree that social media has revolutionized communication and has been a gift to those of us with hearing loss. Where else can you share ideas, make comments, and connect with the global hearing loss and deaf communities?

    Keep up the fantastic blogging.



  2. there is what is called VRI (Video Remote Interpreting) and it can be done, and many doctors offices and hospitals are already using it. It is a minute by minute interpreting job, so it saves the company money, and it is very easy to set up, and can be done on demand. The one company that I know for sure is doing VRI is Purple Communications.


  3. Hi Bitco,

    Thanks for the mention.

    I’d like to clarify some things. I don’t know everything, but I’m getting a pretty good grip on communication modalities.

    CART is relatively good for oral deaf (note the lower case for deaf), while it is less good for the Deaf (upper case – Deaf culture) community. CART has it’s limitations as the operator has to load “dictionaries” in it. It is a stenotype machine, not a typewriter.

    For someone who is a native ASL speaker CART is in English. ASL is NOT English. ASL uses some English words, particularly in finger spelling. However, ASL is its own language. It came from French Sign Language. We still have about 60% compatibility with FSL. SEE is English. ASL (not SEE) is the 4th most spoken language in America. That will probably change in the next few decades to reflect SEE in schools.

    I was talking with a terp friend and we were discussing signing songs. She mentioned a line of a song and I realized that in ASL it would have none of the same “words” as in English. The grammar is different, the syntax is different. When we see people signing songs on YouTube it is really more SEE or PSE than ASL.

    I don’t see using a lot of technology to fill the gap outside of office locations – at least not at this time. I can use FaceTime to talk to Deaf friends, but the Girl Scout needed someone to be there for rock wall climbing. This isn’t happening on an iPhone or even a 4G iPad. Human required. And, honestly, captioning is cold in comparison to human to human communication.

    I have a friend who uses Captel and it is okay for when the CI isn’t cutting it and she needs help while on the road (on her cell phone). Other than that she uses VP.

    Technology like Purple is fine for doctor’s offices and stuff but it is not ready for prime time for things like scout troops.

    Social media connects lots of people including the deaf, the blind, the physically disabled, etc. It levels the playing field in many ways. However, it is also true that many native ASL signers who are older and were not educated using SEE are often wretched communicators in writing. They do better with VLOGS. As I said, ASL and English are distinct languages.

    Ditto the blind – individuals who are blind from birth and use braille as a first written language often have terrible written English skills as braille 2 and 3 are full of contractions (to save space). I’ve been on email lists with many blind from birth and many of them cannot spell, punctuate, etc to save their lives.


    1. This is an excellent comment, Marsha. I’m going to re-publish it as a post. If that’s OK with you, of course.


      1. Sure. Have it it. 🙂

        I suppose that I should add that the pre-lingually Deaf Blind have the added difficulty of using ASL to talk with humans and Braille to read and write. The issue with higher grades of Braille (Grade 1 equates letter to letter with English) use contractions, so by the time the Deaf Blind child really gets into “writing” Braille is the way to go. Braille, due to it’s contractions, it is not written English. It is sort of like the phonemes the stenotype machine converts into English. When Deaf Blind go on the net, unless someone has schooled them how to convert Grade 3 Braille into English, they have serious problems with written communication.

        And how do I know all this? Ex was blind and learned Grade 1 Braille late in life as he had been partially sighted much of his life and learned English. Grade 1 Braille is English. When he hit Grade 2 Braille it was like he hit a wall. All he ended up doing was labeling things with grade 1. I knew probably a thousand blind folks online through him and even tested Jaws For Windows, Window Eyes, and HAL and wrote a technical paper on them comparing the ins and outs of those text to speech screen readers.


  4. BTW, I want to add, I LOVE ASL. I prefer it to SEE. If a terp starts with SEE I sign, “No. ASL.” As I am oral deaf it often surprises terps that I want to use ASL. It is a magnificent, complex, and rich language. It feels like home to me in a very meaningful way.


    1. I’m not Deaf, but I do understand language and linguistics. I’m beginning to love ASL as well. That is to say, although I’m illiterate in it, I do respect the complexity and richness of which you write so eloquently.


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