Useful Safety Device for Deaf

Sometimes an invention seems so simple and obvious that you wonder why it’s taken so long to appear.  Often though, particularly with products designed for people with some sort of disabilities it’s just finding out about them that can be the difficulty.

Safety is often an area that is overlooked,  devices which able bodied would deem almost essential are often of little practical use to the disabled for a variety of reasons.  How many of us for example would consider a smoke and CO2 alarm an essential piece of safety equipment to protect our homes and families.  Of course for a hearing impaired person, the standard smoke alarm is of little use, there are some modified systems which have light warnings as well as alarms but of course you have to be able to see it.

The bigger problem with traditional smoke alarms is that the majority of  fire incidents occur when people are asleep.  In this scenario a deaf person is completely unprotected by a traditional smoke alarm which they simply wouldn’t hear.  However there is a innovative new product designed by Deafgard, which has recently been purchased by the Doncaster College for the Deaf in the UK.

It’s a vibrating pillow which works alongside it’s existing ‘deaf’ fire alarm system.  All the lights on a system like this are useless if the person is asleep so the vibrating device is placed in the pillow and will wake anyone up if the fire alarm goes off.

It’s completely wire free and also has strobe lights to augment the powerful vibration that it incorporates.It’s been tested successfully in many environments which have hearing impaired people and is now considered an essential safety device.  Not only does it improve safety, it is just another tool which allows deaf people a little more independence and increases awareness of these issues to staff and people without these disabilities.

These simple technological devices can make a huge impact on disabled people’s lives, despite the fact that the effect can seem minimal to an able bodied person.   They provide a huge level of independence and allow hearing impaired people access to lifestyles that were previously not possible.   A deaf person now is much less reliant on able bodied people than they were 20 years ago.  The internet has of course made a huge difference too, a deaf friend of mine who a decade ago was forced to live with his parent now has a completely different lifestyle.  He lives in a studio apartment packed through with gadgets and runs his online business through a high speed vpn server which also controls his fire and burglar alarms.

You can find more information on this technology being used in UK colleges for the deaf on the BBC website.  To access the broadcasts outside Britain you will need something like a UK TV VPN however to bypass the country based filters.

 

Deaf Sky Customers Win Cancellation Battle

We’ve all been there, that service or subscription that we need to cancel yet the firm makes it as difficult to cancel.  It’s something I’ve just experienced and I can confirm it’s a bit of an ordeal, my attempt to cancel my Sky subscription (a Satellite TV service like cable) was successful but very hard work.  You start with an initial phone call which gets passed to a ‘special department’ where you’re quizzed and tempted with bonuses to reconsider, you can of course cancel – Sky is billion dollar multinational after all – but it’s tough.

Consider now, trying  this if you’re hard of hearing, my mother for example can just about manage very basic phone calls but not much else.  Trying to fathom her way through different electronic options and then trying to hold long phone calls with persuasive call center staff is extremely difficult.  Which is where the problem lies with Sky, the phone call was previously the only acceptable way to cancel a contract.  No quick email, no ordinary letter or fax – the only option was to run the gauntlet of departments designed to change your mind – clearly an unacceptable situation for the hard of hearing, and impossible for those who are completely deaf.

In the light of some very strong criticism and a decent media campaign by a couple of newspapers the company has relented and changed it’s requirements.  Now the approximately 15% of the population who have some hearing difficulties will not have to use the telephone to cancel their contracts.  They will be able to use email and ‘textphone’ to stop their subscriptions and cancel the service.  They have ruled out written letters for security reasons, which we find rather baffling as it’s ultimately at least as secure as email but a success never the less.

The company have upgraded their accessibility pages, in light of this criticism so they’re worth a look for the disabled and hering impaired – accessibility.sky.com.  There is talk of a video relay service which could be used by sky customers to use sign language to communicate with specially trained staff.  Although I’m not so show this is something that would be that appreciated, after all if you want to cancel you want to do it quickly and easily.

Many of  the bigger media companies seem to think it’s an acceptable way to keep customers, simply making it as difficult as possible to cancel their contracts.  The reality is that there’s huge competition especially online where anyone can with the right tools watch just about any media programme they like if they know where to look.  Imagine watching all UK terrestrial channels anywhere including the USA – iPlayer USA.

For the deaf community, technology generally makes life much easier for them. Simply being able to communicate online via text or email to order goods, manage accounts and other administrative tasks is much more straight forward.  Indeed with the rights skills and a few tools like good VPN software and a fast internet connection there’s not many aspects of life that can be controlled in this way.  So to be fair to Sky they have backed down and helped all those hearing impaired people who just can’t use a telephone easily.

 

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