Skype and the Deaf

By BitcoDavid

Skype (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Video Relay is a godsend for the Deaf community. It allows those who cannot speak or hear, to engage in phone conversations with those who can. And it does so with far greater ease and speed, than its predecessor, TTY. But Video Relay has its drawbacks as well. It’s slower than full duplex communication, because an interpreter must relay the data back and forth. It requires subscription to a service. That subscription may or may not be free to the Deaf user, but a service is required nonetheless. Lastly, Video Relay requires specialized equipment – a Videophone.

The Internet has offered a number of alternatives to Video Relay, but so far, few of them have been widely accepted. Most of these services and sites are designed around Hearing users, but can be modified or adapted for use by the Deaf. This doesn’t hold true however, with Skype. While not actually designed for ASL, the system is amazingly ASL-friendly.

skype phone
skype phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s where this service shines in Deaf or ASL user communication. It allows the user to establish a video call on a PC, laptop, tablet or cellphone. In short, you can see one another, which means you can sign to one another. For PCs you would of course, need a separate outboard webcam.

The Deaf community embraced this technology years ago. Every Deaf person I know, uses Skype – and they’re more married to their smartphones, than Hearing teens. I often see Deaf people signing – one handed – to their phones.

Video-call (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But for us – the Hearing signer – Skype also offers benefits. We can use it as another tool in our arsenal of learning aids. If you can find a Deaf person, interpreter, ASL tutor, or practicing student who’s willing to Skype with you, you’ll have a convenient and free study method. Furthermore, since Skype is Cloud based, and works in conjunction with FaceBook and Twitter, you can find people to sign with, whom you don’t personally know.

As a part of my system upgrade, I will be installing it on all 3 of my workstations. I see potential uses on this site, our FaceBook group – ASL Learners by – and in my personal ASL-er’s life as well.

In the meantime, I’d like to take a moment to thank Randy Tweedie, for offering to tutor me in Sign, and Chris Majeskey, for setting it up for me. Both are from Beverly School for the Deaf. With their help, maybe someday,  I’ll sign as well as I fight.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.


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