The question always comes up whenever I meet people for the first time and we exchange business cards. "Call me," I say. There's always a pause. "If you're deaf, how do you use the phone," the brave ones ask.
I don't use a regular phone at my desk, I use a videophone from ZVRS.com, a company that I work for. Anytime someone dials my number, the call is routed to a call center. My phone rings, I answer with the press of a button and instantly, an interpreter appears on the screen. I use a headset to talk directly to the caller on the other end and the interpreter translates everything that is being said into sign language.
ZVRS recently released their Z4 software on the iPod Touch and the iPhone4. It is also available for the Samsung Epic, T-Mobile MyTouch and the Galaxy Tab. This software turns those mobile devices into a full-fledged videophone for deaf and hard of hearing consumers. The software is also available for PCs and Macs with webcams.
I'm no longer chained to my desk. For example, all day long today, I used my iPod Touch on my home wifi to make and receive calls. A deaf customer called me from her videophone to ask me questions about ZVRS services. A few minutes later, I called a friend to arrange a meeting for next week. The school called me to inform me that the buses would be running tomorrow and that school would be open. It's hard to believe that deaf and hard of hearing folks are just now experiencing freedom with the phone-- something that others have taken for granted since the first cell phone came out.
There's only one downside to this: Dinnertime is now interrupted with tele-marketing calls.