Video phones improve communication for deaf community
Technology has changed the way Clara Baldwin connects with the hearing community. She uses a video phone to call her hairdresser and speaks through an interpreter.
“I'm calling because I want to reconfirm my appointment for tomorrow at 4:45,” she signed.
Baldwin is an American Sign Language specialist for the Alaska State School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AKSDHH).
She was born deaf and both of her parents are deaf, as well.
Baldwin said she’s seen the difference video phones and cellphone apps like FaceTime and Skype have made for the deaf community.
“It's helped us become a lot more independent and able to be self-advocates for ourselves and make independent phone calls,” Baldwin explained. “I call the doctor's office and I don't have to depend on some third party, I can make the phone call directly.”
Each staff person at AKSDHH has their own video phone. There’s also a public one at the Anchorage School District headquarters on Boniface and Debarr people can use during business hours.
“We don't have very many services in the deaf community in Alaska. There are some folks who have deaf parents, there are some students who are seniors in high school who can drive themselves here and they might not have this technology available in their home,” Baldwin said.
It’s a resource for students, too. Baldwin said most classrooms are equipped with video phones as well.
“We encourage our students to make phone calls independently because maybe they'll be looking for a job, potential job interviews. It's important they have those skills to express themselves, so, we really emphasize independence and self-advocacy,” she said.
The community is celebrating Deaf Awareness Week September 24 through 30.
The week’s activities end with the Deaf Jam basketball game where law enforcement officers will square off against a team of deaf athletes. The Deaf Jam carnival begins at East High School on Saturday, September 30 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The basketball game goes from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.