Computers can be programmed specifically to cater to the hearing impaired. All the required elements needed can be located in most any computer store, or in the computer section of department stores. This is just as important to the hearing impaired as the invention of the telephone. Using the keyboard, it is now possible to make phone calls to anywhere and chat via computer program. The primary input device is the keyboard, and the output device is either printed text or the screen.
These elements are both visual and do not require the sense of sound. Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf (TDDs) are simplistic keyboards that display a single line of text, and occasionally they incorporate a printer that prints onto extra paper from the machine. TDDs will not work with most computers, but there are some software programs that are available. However, most people with computers won't purchase the program unless they have a relative or friend who is deaf.
I once asked a deaf person I communicated with through a TDD, what it was like to be deaf. He responded that he learned to read at the early age of three, at the same point he lost his hearing, and did not ever lose the ability to speak, but he is currently able, through new technology, to conduct conversations with those that hear without passing notes or reading lips. He can even perform interviews, like this one, over the telephone. His knowledge and experience with TDD is growing daily because he calls his wife everyday for updates and is able to reserve a motel and make travel arrangements using his TDD.
However, it is not a major factor in my own life, as TDDs are limited mainly to those in the deaf community.
This is not a criticism, since TDDs represent the first major step out of electronic isolation for hearing impaired people, with the second step being the microcomputer. Should people who own computers still use TDDs?
He told me that currently it is hard to get computers to communicate with TDDs. It's required to have special software and hardware. It's going to be a while before TDDs are no longer used because people have a hard time becoming accustomed to change. A microcomputer will cost a lot more than a TDD. The TDDs tend to be more affordable, running as low as $200 - and sometimes even less!
So if the deaf are looking for a computer, what do they need to look for? There's really nothing special they may need in a computer besides internet access. I asked if there was anything he would like to say to deaf readers or people who deal with those who are deaf in regards to computers. They need to keep the modem the first priority, more than the printer. If this is a first time purchase, and they can afford it, a laptop computer would be a great first pick.
In the even of an emergency, they could call CB to request that someone make a voice call on their behalf. While this is purely speculative, it would probably take a bit of persuasion to make CB people understand their earnestness. On a more practical level, I've been told there are new bulletin board networks in various cities that are being set up experimentally. These should work as a place to find information on TDDs and computers, while being an emergency phone center.
I don't know too much about them but I hear there are speech synthesizers you can attach to lap tops. It could be very successful if the synthesizer could attach to a phone. The hearing impaired individual using this method, however, does not know if there is anyone answering the phone and cannot hear replies. Since the computer requires abilities that pretty much all hearing impaired persons have (including typing skills, sight, etc.), the job market for deaf individuals to work with computers is a large-scale, continually growing operation. The ideal job for someone who is hearing impaired is word processing, data processing, or anything that does not require telephone interaction such as programming and more.