Press release courtesy of TCS Associates.VTCSecure, LLC has been awarded a contract by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to advance telecommunications access for the deaf, hard of hearing, and speech-disabled populations in the United States. Under the contract VTCSecure will develop and deliver a state-of-the-art Video Access Technology Reference Platform (VATRP). The VATRP will be a set of open-source standards-based applications on today's most common mobile and desktop operating systems, which will allow for text, voice, and high-quality video calling into existing Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) providers. The VATRP applications also will establish a set of interoperability standards to be used by current TRS providers ensuring seamless usability while maintaining freedom of choice for all TRS users. Additionally, the platform will be utilized to access American Sign Language (ASL) direct call centers. The FCC seeks, through this contract, that federal, state, and local government in addition to public and private industry will use the platform to provide direct ASL support for their customers. These ASL call centers allow ASL deaf and hard of hearing users to make direct calls to organizations without the need to use TRS services. This initiative will lead to the creation of jobs for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and provide faster, more reliable communication without the need for ASL interpreters, while potentially saving millions of dollars for ratepayers. "The VATRP has the ability to revolutionize the way deaf and hard of hearing users interact with TRS providers," says Peter Hayes CEO of VTCSecure. "If TRS providers choose to utilize the free VATRP applications they will save on technology and software licensing cost while allowing TRS providers to focus on the more important aspect of their services, which is quality interpreting. The VATRP will ensure interoperability and promote continuous improvements by a global community of universities, students, and open-source programmers. In a world where most video communication software applications are proprietary and closed, the VATRP will allow anyone to freely change, utilize, and customize the VATRP applications to meet the communication needs of all peoples. When people communicate more effectively and freely, it has far-reaching positive effects on almost every other aspect of our global society. It just took the deaf and hard of hearing community fighting for their right to more effective communication to make the rest of us hear that message." As part of a much larger team, VTCSecure will be working with TCS Associates, Gallaudet University, and Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf on the creation of the VATRP. "VTCSecure can build software but it must be built with the full participation and input of the deaf and hard of hearing community or it simply won't be effective," says Hayes. The VATRP concept was originally conceived by the Gallaudet University Technology Access Program. Gallaudet University will be collecting and providing information on the user requirements of the VATRP project, and also participate in feedback, testing, and outreach efforts. "Members of the Gallaudet community rely on VRS every day. For a decade, we have worked hard to provide research and information to consumers and providers for improving the service. We are thrilled that we can now take this work to the next level, where the community will be able to shape VRS directly according to their vision. It is unprecedented that everyone can become a contributor, not just a select few," said Dr. Christian Vogler, director of the Technology Access Program. RIT/NTID, a global leader in accessible technology, STEM- and career-focused education, will be providing advanced technology support for the project. NTID is the first and largest technological college for deaf and hard of hearing students in the world. "RIT/NTID, through our Center on Access Technology is proud to partner on this ground-breaking project and provide consultation on technology development for software that will significantly enhance communication services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing," says Gary Behm, director of RIT/NTID's Center on Access Technology Innovation Lab. To ensure that the VATRP meets the needs of those it intends to serve, "We will be enlisting the services of deaf RIT/NTID faculty and staff members with expertise in information technology to work on this project and have hired a deaf doctoral student who is pursuing her Ph.D. at RIT's B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences." TCS Associates, the nation's longest-standing deaf-owned accessible technology company will be providing quality high-end support, maintenance, and outreach services for the VATRP project. "As a deaf-owned business, communication access is key. I have relied on VRS for years to operate my business, communicate with vendors, customers, and business partners. We are thrilled to join this elite group to improve the ways in which the community we serve accesses communication. We envision this solution as a large step towards communication equivalency for the deaf" stated founder and President, Myrna Aiello. Ms. Aiello also adds, "Additionally, we are thrilled about the many opportunities that this solution will provide in the employment of deaf and hard of hearing individuals nationwide. Whether it is on the development and support team of this project, or in an ASL direct customer service center in a participating organization, we believe this solution will have a direct impact on increasing employment for our community."