Friday, January 28, 2011

Videophone for the Deaf

VIDEOPHONE CONVERSATION: MGH patient Jay Perley uses the videophone in the White Lobby

In the United States, approximately 9 to 22 out of 1,000 individuals are Deaf* or have a hearing impairment. As part of the MGH's commitment to providing equitable care for patients, visitors and employees who are Deaf, a new state-of-the-art videophone has been installed in the White Lobby.

A relatively small device -- about the size of an
office telephone equipped with a lens -- the videophone can reach any telephone inside or outside the hospital. The videophone allows the caller to see either an interpreter or another individual on the screen who communicates using American Sign Language (ASL). Through a video relay service, an ASL interpreter translates the information to the hearing recipient at the other end of the call. The videophone also can be used without an interpreter between two individuals using ASL. In this case, the caller and recipient would see each other on their respective screens.

"The MGH is committed to providing the Deaf community with the same communication features and telephone conveniences as our hearing community," says Susan Muller-Hershon,  ASL medical interpreter. "While the hospital already had a videophone at the Blum Center, we found that there was a need for an additional videophone that was available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. " 

Across the United States, video relay services and videophones have largely replaced the text telephone version of communication. "In the upcoming year, we hope to expand our efforts by installing another videophone in the Lunder Building and improving communication access in the inpatient areas," says Zary Amirhosseini, MGH Disability Program manager.

The initiative to install the videophone in the White Lobby was made possible by a collaboration among Interpreter Services, the Office of Patient Advocacy and the Disability Council. For more information about the system, contact Muller-Hershon at 617-726-0357.

 * In this article, the word 'Deaf' using a capital 'D' denotes a cultural group of persons connected by American Sign Language and a shared value and belief system, according to the National Association of the Deaf.

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