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  • Dr. Lisalee D. Egbert

Home for the Holidays with Video Phone


With the holidays around the corner and a pandemic that leaves us wishing for those holiday dinners with family and friends, what’s a kid to do? Especially if your family doesn’t sign well and you’re Deaf? And how can you have long conversations with your friends? The answer: video phone, or VP as it is known.

Video phone is a way for any caller who is Deaf to communicate with any caller who isn’t Deaf and doesn’t know sign language. How? The caller places a call to one of the organizations such as Sorenson that offers this service. The service answers with a video call. That person is a sign language interpreter who then calls the intended recipient of the call. And with the use of the app, Wavello, the caller can see both the interpreter and the recipient of the call. Gone are the days of the TTY where you just read what the interpreter typed. And gone are the days where you only saw the interpreter on video phone. The benefit of this is that just like when you use an interpreter in person, the Deaf caller gets to make that one-on-one connection with the person they are calling.

The question becomes is this something kids can and will use? After all, we know how attached they are to their phones and texting. As it turns out they can use the app on their cell phones and they can also use public video phones at their schools; a nice way for them to be introduced to video phone etiquette. Another way kids can be introduced to video phone etiquette is through the use of Deaf trainers who come to the school or home of the young person and teach them how to use video phone. Here’s a video of a trainer and a young person discussing the process of learning video phone etiquette: https://youtu.be/m8zQur3o_m8

In addition to all that chatting with friends, with video phone teens now have a way to call for assistance on their cell phones; thereby letting their parents sleep a little bit better at night knowing their teen has a way to call if they get a flat tire or need help. 

The longer we remain in a pandemic with students and family members separated either from school and classmates, or family and friends, the more central a role in maintaining and developing relationships video phone can play in the lives of Deaf children and young people. In fact, it might even enhance their relationships with loved ones and let them feel more like they are a part of the family. Here is a wonderful video that demonstrates how one young girl found a way to stay connected to her grandmother through the use of video phone and the Wavello app. It’s says a lot about how powerful a tool video phone can be in people’s lives: https://youtu.be/2O7D9M-HUaw

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