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Washington, D.C. – April 28, 2016 – Gallaudet University is pleased to announce that the Technology Access Program (TAP), along with its long-standing partners Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Omnitor in Sweden, have played a key role in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) process of transitioning from TTY to real-time text communications.

TAP conducts research related to communication technologies and services, with the goal of producing knowledge useful to industry, government, and deaf and hard of hearing consumers in the quest for equality in communications.

During a public meeting on April 28, the FCC passed 5-0 a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on proposals to support real-time text communications over Internet Protocol (IP) communications networks to improve the accessibility of these networks for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or have speech-related disabilities. Now, the FCC will solicit feedback from the public with the goal of voting on an order in the fall.

In addition, the FCC is also seeking comments on a timeline to phase out the use of TTYs and transition fully to real-time text.

TAP received a patent (U.S. Patent 8,433,761) from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a real-time text user interface design in 2013, which was created by Norman Williams, TAP senior research engineer.
Real-time text is a mode of communication that permits flowing text conversation. The recipient will see the text while it is being typed. The text can be sent alone or in combination with other media such as voice and video. Another unique aspect of real-time text is that users can interject a comment or interrupt each other, and not be required to “take turns” or wait for a prompt before typing.

TAP’s goal is for real-time text to be integrated in mainstream wireless phones for everyone – deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing alike – and eventually in other forms of telecommunications, including public places, places of business, organizations, and government agencies.

“Imagine a world where people who are deaf or hard of hearing have the option of calling any other person’s phone directly via real-time text, or using a mix of real-time text and voice. This would do wonders for our integration into mainstream communications,” said Dr. Christian Vogler, TAP director.
“Gallaudet University applauds the decision of the FCC to release a historic Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on real-time text. This represents the culmination of decades of hard work by deaf and hard of hearing stakeholders, with TAP and its partners involved front and center, and opens up many exciting new avenues for communication access,” said Vogler.

“Within the deaf community, text-based messaging online and on cell phones are very popular forms of communication,” said Williams. “Real-time text is a welcome addition because it is better suited to time-sensitive interactive communication and mimics the conversational nature of the telephone. With real-time text, you don’t need to wait for your colleague or friend to finish their typed message; you can read it as they are writing.”

The Disability Advisory Committee (DAC), which advises the FCC on issues of communications access for people with disabilities, was also involved in this project. Vogler is a representative on the DAC.
Several years ago, TAP was recognized by the FCC for its efforts in the development of another text-based capability, text-to-911. Text-to-911 services allow people who are deaf and hard of hearing to access participating emergency service call centers by sending a text message to 911 in lieu of making a voice call or needing a telephone relay service. The service is now available in selected geographic areas by the nation’s four largest wireless carriers: ATT, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

TAP’s work was part of a large collaborative undertaking on real-time text with Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Omnitor in Sweden, under Trace Center’s lead. This work was in part supported by funding from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education, grant numbers H133E040013 and H133E090001 (RERC on Telecommunications Access). However, this work does not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world. For more information, please contact us.

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