Polycom business media phone

24 04 2009

Frances commented on my last post regarding the new Polycom phone which is fantastic for deaf people who use speech and lip read. I have reproduced her comment here as a post, to ensure that it is seen (rather than hidden in comments) as she made several excellent points. Thank you for these – I was unable to hear the video demonstration so you have helped massively.

Frances said -

There are a number of features on the Polycom VVX 1500 PBX/IP phone that interest me as a professional stenographer and lipspeaker. The big one is it time-stamps video and audio recording on an IP platform and that can be archived and retrieved on demand. It has been developed in a way that has considered the needs of deaf people and will not interfere with heaing aids. It has visual indicators if you have a video or voice mail and shows you how many. I have ordered a couple of phones for starters so that I can telework remotely with the public services. This phone is a real dream come true for STTRs, Captioners, court reporters, realtime voice writers, lipspeakers and interpreters. Stenographers have all been waiting for technology to catch up with what the possiblities are for remote unified communication. Our software can handle integration of video. We have audio already, but this is HD audio. This phone can stream content and interact with IP wireless devices and remote fixed HD video conferencing devices for unified interactive multipoint communication, the exciting bit is it is works on a Web 2 interactive platform, so is ready for interactive realtime applications and content that can be streamed to websites via a secure bridge and can interact with big screen multipoint video conferencing systems. Video phones are not new, but what this one can do is unique and will mean a lot of new services and products for deaf and hearing people available on a scale and at a price that will be make it a very disruptive technology.





Phone calls for deaf people are a step closer

23 04 2009

Ofcom are carrying out a comprehensive review of telecommunications services for deaf people. Hopefully this will pave the way for opening up possibilities of implementing new and more efficient and suitable telephone systems that will work with the existing digital networks in the UK. I went to a consultation meeting with Ofcom, along with two other deaf people. The three of us had used captioned telephony and Typetalk, and explained the pros and cons of each service.

The Guardian reports upon the TAG campaign to have a modern telephone service for deaf people in the UK, see HERE for the full article.

It’s very frustrating when you can’t hear on the phone and your option is to get an analogue line installed so that a minicom or Typetalk can function, or use an interpreter to relay your call via an ordinary telephone. I will be be so pleased to be able to, without a second thought, pick up the phone and transfer an incoming call to a colleague, or make a phone call to a number that is likely to have a number of automated options to choose from such as my bank, or make a call without worrying whether the hearing person at the other end will hang up on me or not.

Changing track slightly, a new possibility has emerged. A new phone was launched last week by Polycom, the VWX 1500 business media phone. This phone is interesting as it has IP capabilities, it is able to simultaneously stream high quality audio and video – a potential winner for deaf people. It has a flashing light on the top right corner of the phone and it is possible to save conversations for later recall.

Polycom have a roadshow and will be in London on 14 and 15 May.





Flying Fridays

17 04 2009

It’s Friday evening and everyone heads to the pub. One of the popular haunts of my work colleagues is the cafe at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). Everyone wants to chill and let off steam after a busy week. So they head out for a nice relaxed evening. For me, it means more concentrating, more work as I have to lip read and try to understand what’s being said. It’s very tiring and no fun at all at 5pm on a Friday. I’d rather be in a hot air balloon and soar off into the sky with a bottle of plonk and a couple of people to talk to – hey it’s QUIET up there!

The problem at places like RADA is that there are too many hard surfaces – walls, tables, floors, ceiling – which bounce sounds off surfaces. There is too much background noise echoing off these surfaces – people talking, plates, cutlery, glasses, chairs scraping, coffee machine – and the resulting noise is very loud, it’s actually almost unbearable at times. When you’re tired, this is harder to cope with. Hearing people forget that by 5pm, a deaf person is going to be shattered from concentrating on communicating with hearing people all day (unless they work in finance, hiding behind a computer).

The solution?
1) Turn off hearing aids and rely totally on lip reading. Do-able if speaker is clear (not usually!) and I’m not too tired (meaning I can’t keep this up for very long).
2) Find somewhere outside to drink as it’s quieter.
3) Pick a clear speaker to talk to.
4) Make it a very short drink and concentrate very hard on lip reading, ask people to slow down, then vamoose.
5) As a last resort, do the deaf nod. I used to say yes to everything but that got me into a few scrapes! I think a lot of deaf people do this.
6) Meet up with a bunch of deaf people instead. They totally get good communication.
7) Go home. Have a bottle glass of wine. Chill. Properly.





Changes to CEA Card scheme

17 04 2009

Photobucket

If you’re registered blind or in receipt of Disability Living Allowance / Attendance Allowance, you can obtain a CEA card for £5.50, entitling you to a free cinema ticket for someone accompanying you to the cinema. 90% of UK cinemas support this scheme. You can download an application form HERE. Check if your cinema is participating in the scheme HERE.

There will be changes to the CEA Card scheme from 1 March 2009. All CEA Cards issued after 1 March 2009 will have a period of validity of one year, instead of the current three years. Additionally, a new set of terms and conditions will apply.

CINEMA EXHIBITORS’ ASSOCIATION CARD – NEW TERMS & CONDITIONS

General

1. The CEA Card is issued by The Card Network on behalf of the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association (CEA) and remains the property of the CEA. Any participating cinema operator reserves the right not to honour the CEA Card or to retain it where they have reason to believe it is being misused or used outside of the terms and conditions set out in this document.

2. In applying for the CEA Card, a person is deemed to have fully accepted the terms and conditions set out in this document. Where a cardholder is suspected of wilfully contravening these terms and conditions, the CEA or any participating cinema reserves the right to retain the card pending further investigation.

3. The terms and conditions set out in this document, its use or concessions are not materially affected by the cardholder’s possession of any other disability- or age-related pass or permit.

Terms of use

4. The CEA Card will not be valid unless it displays a photograph of the cardholder. The Card is not transferable and only the cardholder shall be entitled to use it. Any participating cinema operator reserves the right to ask for some additional form of identification from the cardholder. Where it is suspected that a card is being used fraudulently, the cinema operator reserves the right to retain the card pending further investigation.

5. The CEA Card allows the cardholder to obtain ONE free ticket for a person to provide assistance required as a result of the cardholder’s disability during their visit to the cinema, provided that a full price ticket is purchased by the cardholder for the same film. In providing a free ticket for another person to assist them during their visit, the cinema is offering one way of meeting its duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for the cardholder under the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act.

6. The free ticket will be provided on the assumption that the person accompanying the cardholder is able to provide appropriate assistance. Illustrative examples of such assistance might include the ability to assist the cardholder in an emergency evacuation of the cinema, accompany and/or assist the cardholder in using the cinema’s washrooms and so on. For that reason the presumption will be that the person accompanying the cardholder should be aged 16 years or over. However the cinema operator reserves the right to make a judgement on the ability of any person to assist the cardholder during their visit to the cinema, and to refuse the provision of a free ticket where it deems it appropriate.

7. One cardholder cannot benefit from the free ticket provided to another cardholder. In all cases, one full price ticket must be bought for each free ticket allowed. The cinema operator reserves the right to make other arrangements for two or more cardholders attending the cinema together.

8. Use of the card is not limited during its period of validity, provided that on each occasion the cardholder observes the terms and conditions set out in this document.

9. Use of this card does not give cardholders any additional rights of entry compared to those enjoyed by non-card holders, apart from those set out in these terms and conditions. Use of the card will be constrained in terms of programming and cinema capacity for a cardholder as they are for any paying customer.

Period of validity

10. The CEA card is valid for a period of one year from the date of issue. This validity date must be clearly legible at all time on the card, as should all other information present on the day of issue. Cinemas reserve the right to not accept or to retain any Card where any details are no longer legible.

Renewal or loss

11. On expiry of the CEA Card, or where a card has been lost, or where it is no longer legible, a full new application, including the administrative charge, must be submitted to the Card Network.

Appeals

12. Where a cardholder has reason to appeal the limits placed on the use of his or her CEA Card, or to question the actions of a participating cinema operator, this appeal will be made in the first instance to The Card Network.

Further information

13. Further information on the CEA Card, including a list of participating cinemas, can be found at CEA Card





Conference: Communication in the Information Age

16 04 2009

EFHOH Congress, London 2009

This year the European Federation of Hard of Hearing People (EFHOH) is holding its’ annual conference in the UK and its’ theme is Communication in the Information Age. The event will focus on opportunities to achieve equality in communication services and will look at the political effort necessary to bring about better communications networks. They will also look ahead to see what technologies may be empowering deaf and hard of hearing people in the future.

RNID members, and their friends, are invited to come to the events conference on Saturday 25th April. It will be held at the Park Crescent Conference Centre, the nearest tubes are Great Portland Street or Regent’s Park, admission is free to RNID members and just £10 for non-members.

To register for the event
Please go to Communication in the Information Age Conference 2009 and complete the online form. Alternatively ring 020 7296 8280 (voice) or 020 7608 0511(text) to speak with one of the RNID team who will register you for the conference.





Bus problems?

15 04 2009

If you have problems getting access to buses because you have a hearing dog with you or simply because of your hearing loss (I do get some offensive drivers), here’s a useful site called Bus Users UK, which you can complain to.





Captioned telephony in France

13 04 2009

A bit of international news! France will now have video relay telephony, provided by Viable and Websourd.

Way to go!





Trying to be co-operative?

12 04 2009

I went into a supermarket which is part of a national chain called The Co-Operative Group. I had my hearing dog with me. He was wearing his official purple working coat which says “Hearing Dog for Deaf People” on both sides and has the Assistance Dogs UK logo on the top. I went to the till to pay for a loaf of bread. The shop assistant told me repeatedly that a dog was not allowed into the store, that it is a food shop. I kept explaining that my dog is a hearing dog, an assistance dog for deaf people, and that he therefore is entitled to the same access benefits as a guide dog for the blind. Unfortunately, the assistant clearly did not want to listen to what I had to say, and he refused to serve me. In the end, I asked to speak to the store manager.

A young man came out and he was incredibly rude and offensive towards me. Other customers in the queue were visibly shocked. He told me he was the junior manager and refused to listen to my explanations and kept talking over me and interrupting me. I explained that my hearing dog is an assistance dog, which is one of six different kinds of assistance dogs; there are not only guide dogs for the blind which most people are familiar with but other types of assistance dogs too. I showed the manager the official identity cards which I carry for my dog: one certifying that he is a trained hearing dog, and one from Hearing Dogs for Deaf People (the organisation which trained him) with a statement from the Institute of Environmental Health Officers, stating that;

“Hearing Dogs are allowed entry to restaurants, supermarkets and other food premises. Their very special training means they are not a risk to hygiene in such premises”

The manager said he was not interested, he did not want to see them, and told me to go outside the store. I refused to go outside as I know my rights and I was very offended by the manner in which he spoke to me. As a customer, I expected a certain level of courtesy and professionalism, but I was met with an unwillingness to listen, rudeness, and an offensive attitude towards my disabled status.

I was humiliated.

I joined the queue of customers at the till and the manager came over to me and asked to see the cards. He snatched the cards out of my hand, read them and then apologised. He then told the shop assistant that I was right and that he was to serve me. I asked both of them for an apology. I asked the manager why he had not listened to my explanation. His reply was that he had never seen a hearing dog before. Well, pardon me! Before I left Ireland, I had never seen a black person, but I still knew that people can’t be treated differently on account of their colour. I had never seen a guide dog for the blind either, but I also knew that they are allowed to go into places selling and serving food because of their special training. So no, that poor excuse didn’t wash with me.

Ignorantia legis neminem excusats.

Ignorance of the law excuses no one: this is a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because he or she was unaware of its content.

I visited The Co-Op again later that day with a leaflet for the manager, which explained the different types of assistance dogs. He said he would put this up on the wall behind the till counter. When you think about it, it’s a good way to cut training costs, just stick a poster on the wall and hope everyone reads it. That’s what I call lazy, passive ‘training’. Or is it my responsibility to train their staff in diversity awareness?!

A few days later I visited The Co-Op again. There was a different assistant at the till. As soon as he saw me, he told me to leave the store. The manager happened to be nearby and said it was ok, my hearing dog was allowed. Clearly, the other staff still had not been trained. Or should I say, no one had bothered to read the leaflet stuck on the wall.

I was disappointed.

To make matters worse, I was very surprised, and disappointed, to see The Co-Op were displaying posters around the store stating that the RNID (Royal National Intsitute for the Deaf) is their charity of the year, with large RNID-branded collection buckets at the tills. My guess is that this was just a token PR exercise.

Does RNID = Really Not Interested in Deaf?

Recently, I went into The Co-Op again (I don’t scare easily), accompanied by my hearing dog, as always, wearing his official purple working coat. I was immediately approached by a shop assistant who told me that dogs were not allowed in the shop. I explained (again. YAWN) that my dog is a hearing dog. He clearly did not understand what I was talking about and went over to his colleague.

I was annoyed.

A few minutes later, I was approached by his colleague who also told me dogs were not allowed in the shop, citing the reason that there is food on the shop shelves. I explained – yet again – that my dog is a hearing dog, a type of assistance dog, therefore he was allowed into the shop. I asked him how many times he had to be told? His poor excuse was that he had never seen a hearing dog before. They trot this one out on a regular basis! The manager was not present so I was unable to discover why the staff had not been given training, a whole month after the original incident in January when I had been promised that staff would be given the appropriate diversity training.

I am disgusted.

I did some research and discovered that The Co-Op is a member of the Employer’s Forum on Disability (EFD). The EFD’s agenda on customers states, under ‘Policy and top level commitment’;

“Service to disabled customers will form an integral part of the company’s product and service standards. A company-wide policy will be agreed by the top team and communicated to the rest of the company.”

The service to disabled customers at this particular branch of The Co-Op is clearly not up to the expected high standards of service given to non-disabled customers. I wonder why their company policy on services to disabled customers was not communicated to this branch’s staff? Was such policy communicated to other branches? Or, dare I say it, was a company-wide policy on service to disabled customers never agreed in the first place?

I am dismayed.

The EFD’s agenda on customers states, under ‘Staff training and disability awareness’;

“Specific steps will be taken to raise awareness of disability among employees involved in developing, marketing and delivering products and services to customers. Training will be made available to communicate service standards and to equip employees to achieve these.”

Eh? HELLO? I would be most interested to know why specific steps had not been taken to raise awareness of deafness and hearing dogs among the employees involved in delivering products to customers. Clearly, no deaf awareness training had been delivered to staff. Never mind that they were supporting RNID for a whole year …. Who Are They When They’re At Home?

I am frustrated.

Making the store accessible is as straightforward as informing all the staff that work there about access rights for disabled people and their assistance dogs, whether those dogs be a guide dog for the blind, a hearing dog for deaf people, a dog for the disabled, a support dog, a canine partner, or a dual purpose guide and hearing dog.

I am tired of explaining my rights.

Looking at The Co-Op’s website, I discovered that 2009 marks their Disability step-change programme, and they are Two Ticks accredited for being positive about disabled people;

“We will also continue to pay attention to customers, and the audits to ensure that all our branches and stores are accessible as they can be for customers with disabilities.”

“By diversity, we mean we value the attributes and the experiences of every individual, be they employee, member or customer. These attributes include, but are certainly not limited to … physical ability”

“Externally, we mean that we will provide easy access to goods, services and facilities and actively seek to engage diverse elements of society.
Therefore:
• We value people for their contribution and will encourage their diversity in all aspects of our business.
• We will not tolerate bullying or harassment in any form.
• We recognise that we need to support the needs of our diverse customer and community base and will work to ensure that we exceed their expectations of us.”

Huh.

However, The Co-Op have tried to make good. They sent me a letter of apology, stating they would be giving their staff training in disability awareness. They also enclosed vouchers to the value of £50.

I had told RNID’s Legal Casework Service Team what had happened. Their response? Zip.

I had also informed the Co-Op charity of the year project manager at the RNID. Zip response.

I had copied in my local Member of Parliament and I received a letter the next day; his response was one of incredulity at the lack of common sense of these shop assistants.

Most helpful were Royal Association for Deaf people Legal Services (RAD) who responded promptly and advised me on my course of action. Kudos to them!

I had (note: past tense) a deaf friend who always said I shouldn’t complain when I came across discrimination in shops and restaurants but should just leave and go elsewhere. How would that improve access for disabled people? We need to fight for our rights. Why should we be treated as second class citizens? Why does he think the Disability Discrimination Act was set up in the first place? Just to make the government look good? Just so companies can say, “Oh yes, of course we’re accessible!”.

Let’s make it simple. Just substitute the word ‘disability’ for ‘black’ and the discrimination becomes clearer.

It pays to complain.

It pays to stand up for your rights and be counted.

I might be deaf, but I’m not invisible.

Hell, no.





Subtitles for Apple Mac tutorials

11 04 2009

I’ve bought an electronic frisbee Apple MacBook Air and am struggling with finding out how to use all the applications, as it didn’t come with a manual. I found video tutorials online however they aren’t captioned. A problem for me, since I can’t hear!

I discovered this site, Mac Video Tutorial subtitles project. The video tutorials are subtitled by volunteers. Brilliant! Just what I need, and I’m sooo grateful.

Captions are available in English and Italian, and they would love more volunteers, to translate into other languages.

I have to say, with Apple liking to be seen as being at the forefront of technology, why haven’t they captioned all their videos? It’s not a technically difficult thing to do.