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TX: 02.06.04 – NEW MOBILE PHONE FOR DEAF PEOPLE

PRESENTER: LIZ BARCLAY

BARCLAY
Now there's a new Nokia mobile phone on the market but what makes this one unusual is that it has special software that enables deaf and hearing impaired people to make calls. Until now if a deaf user wanted to contact another deaf user by mobile the only option was to send a text message. But of course that takes time for the other person to receive the message and to reply. With the new phone messaging can be instant and interactive. But not only that - with the assistance of an operator deaf people can have conversations with hearing people too. We tried the new mobile phone out with deaf users in Manchester who spoke to us through their interpreter.

VOX POPS
Really very happy, it will open up communication.

My name is Sandra, Sandra Woods. It's the first time I've seen it, I'm just going to have a closer look at it now.

Sandra wants to see it properly.

I'd like to try it, it looks good. Because it would help me communicate with my hearing children.

My name is John and my friends got one of these, I've seen them use it.

My name is Theresa, I use SMS a lot. Yes I text a lot to all my friends and this would actually be much more helpful but the problem is carrying it in my bag, I'd like a smaller shape, easier to carry in my handbag. They'd have to have a big handbag to put this in.

BARCLAY
So a fairly enthusiastic response there. Mike Spanner is from the RNID, the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.

SPANNER
This mobile text phone is based on the Nokia communicator, which is a standard phone that you can buy in the shops. It's got special RNID software on it which allows deaf people to keep in touch by typing over the phone.

BARCLAY
And this is the first time then really that we're talking about interactive telephone communication with mobile phones?

SPANNER
Indeed. Deaf people use SMS text, where you compose your message and then send it, but you can never be sure that it's arrived and there are delays in the message being received quite often. It's not really suitable for conversation we feel.

BARCLAY
So in the past then hearing impaired people have only really had these interactive conversations through landlines?

SPANNER
That's right yes. And for the first time we're able to offer this experience to people on a mobile phone.

BARCLAY
How widely available is it?

SPANNER
It's available from any Vodafone shop in the high street, just go along and ask and they'll be pleased to demonstrate it to you.

BARCLAY
And how much does it cost because that in itself may make it accessible only to a few?

SPANNER
The cost varies from about £200 upwards, it rather depends on the price plan, just like any mobile. You have a wide choice of price plan to meet your lifestyle.

BARCLAY
Why has it taken so long then do you think for the mobile phone industry to pick up on the needs of people with hearing impairments?

SPANNER
I think it's because the industry in general has not been aware of the need to consider the needs of all users at the design stage. It's very much harder to add on access features later. If these things are considered at the design stage then the needs of blind people, deaf people and dexterity impaired people can be incorporated in the design and that way everyone gets a product that they can use.

BARCLAY
How exciting then is this for the user because in a way it's welcoming deaf people to a party that non-deaf or hearing people have been at for quite some time?

SPANNER
It is. I think this will make an amazing difference to the lives of deaf people. We're used these days to be able to keep in touch on the move with friends and family, you don't want to have to depend on other people to make your calls, for work, because deaf people can be disadvantaged in the job market if they can't use the phone. And even in the case of emergencies - we hope these don't arise but they do, someone may be ill or you might witness a road accident. In the past deaf people haven't been able to report these things and to get help but now they can.

BARCLAY
How many of your members or people who have contact with the RNID are using these do you know and what are they saying to you?

SPANNER
The product's only recently been launched but there are tens of thousands of people who are potential users of this product and we believe that it will be very popular. We've had many people on the phone to us saying how can we communicate on the phone, SMS is too slow, it's not interactive, what can we buy? And now we have the answer.

BARCLAY
Do you still think that there are improvements that could be made to this technology?

SPANNER
Indeed, we would like deaf people to have a range of handsets, just like hearing people, and a range of price plans on all the mobile networks. That's possible - technology has, for a long time, left disabled people behind, we're very keen that deaf people should have all the advantages of technology that hearing people have.

BARCLAY
Mike Spanner of the RNID.




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