Coping With Challenges, Developers Working To Help Those With Hearing Issues

Posted at 11:18 PM, Dec 07, 2020

LANSING, Mich. — We’ve all stuggled through the pandemic communicating over shaky zoom calls or asking someone to repeat what they said through their mask. But for people who are hard of hearing or deaf communication is even tougher. Amanda Brandeis shows us how some technology developers see this as a challenge to take on.

“One of the places I uses it the most is at the pharmacy" Michael Conley doesn’t leave the house without his notepad. “I pull it out and the person will write down what i need to know.”

Born deaf, he communicates by reading lips others rely on facial expressions – both of which are often hidden behind a mask now. “As a deaf person I think I’ve been isolated a lot anyway, and this just adds to it” and after losing his job, Conley faced other communication challenges at home.

“So many of us working from home, we’ve lost our jobs, or something has happened where we have to make phone calls we didn’t have to before.” But the tech world is helping improve accessibility – with companies like zoom and google enabling live captioning for video calls, transcribing conversations within seconds.

Conley’s also relied on an app that provides real time captioning for phone calls. “You have a prescription ready to pick up right now” called innocaption. Calls are captioned by either a stenographer or automated speech recognition software.

“It really changes everything, before I used to dread making phone calls, now it’s not a problem, it’s freed me completely.” Users are also finding ways to use innocaption for in-person interactions during the pandemic.

Funded by the federal communications commission, the app is available at no cost for the deaf and hard of hearing.

“It has just changed my life.” Conley says in-person communication would be easier if people wore clear masks, but right now that’s not happening much.making the innovations in his hand that much more of a lifeline.

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