One of the side benefits of technology is that when it is made accessible to everyone, the deaf community benefits from that--such is the case with the FaceTime application on the iPhone. If you look at the video to the right, you'll see a deaf man signing to his girlfriend on the Facetime app on the iPhone 4G.
This is the major reason why my husband and I want the new iPhone 4G. We currently have the 3G iphones. To make sure that the FaceTime application worked, I went with mr. slinkerwink to the Apple store, and tested it out.
Even though I don't sign, and speak orally, it was so much easier for me to communicate with mr. slinkerwink via the FaceTime app than it was to hear his voice through the speaker in a loud environment. I could see his face, read his lips, and it was quite revolutionary for me.
Even though the FaceTime app is limited to WiFi, and to other iPhones, hopefully there'll be another app in which you can do a video call with anyone with a phone, or a laptop. So you wouldn't be necessarily stuck with just the FaceTime app, and hoping your friends and family will have iPhone 4Gs as well when you do a video call to them.
Also, in one major way that is a huge boon to the deaf community is the fact that video relay can be accomplished on the iPhone4G. It gets rid of the need to be tethered at home to the VR setup on the television, and allows the deaf person to call a hearing person via VR and another deaf person via VR as well if that deaf person doesn't have the iPhone 4G but the standard VR setup. Here's more on ZVRS, the first video relay service company to provide this sort of service on the iPhone 4G:
So I was thrilled to see the recent announcement that Apple and AT&T are partnering with a VRS (video relay services) company called ZVRS. They are integrating new software into the iPhone 4 and FaceTime, to offer real-time sign language interpretation.
In other words, this will allow hearing- and speech-impaired users and their hearing contacts to communicate with each other via mobile! This is a tremendous development that has been a long time coming. The ZVRS software coming to the iPhone 4 is called iZ, and it will be released on July 26 — the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This item caught the eye of Amy Cohen Efron, of Deaf World as Eye See It, and Karen Putz, from A Deaf Mom Shares Her World. They both covered the Philadelphia event announcing the news last week, and Putz writes about the crowd of hundreds witnessing the moment audience members were invited to demo the service by making video relay calls live: "It was absolutely amazing to watch each of them communicate via using a cell phone. How many of us have dreamed of that day? The day is here!"
Indeed the day is here. I have also dreamed of being able to make video calls on a cellphone, but I never thought that it'd happen so soon within my lifetime. I remember when cell phones became ubiquitous and my high school classmates were snapping up Razrs like mad in 2000, I'd sigh and wish wistfully out loud to my mom that I wished I could make video calls to her and to anyone else so I wouldn't have to be stuck with my old beeper for text messages.
Well, now when my husband and I get the new iPhone4G, we can make video calls to each other instead of having to send text messages to each other, or looking for a quiet place in order to hear each other on the phone. It usually was, "Honey? Can you say that one more time? I don't quite understand you." Then I'd fake a "Yes, I understand, honey," just to cut the conversation short and hang up.
This will definitely improve our trips to the grocery store, and I can decide from home which kind of milk my husband should get at the store :-D Isn't technology wonderful in that way? Heh.