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Enhancing Mobile Phone Access for the Deaf

Enhancing Mobile Phone Access for the Deaf

A team of faculty and students with NTID's Center on Access Technology (CAT) has developed a new intelligent electronic platform that could greatly increase the use of a host of technologies by the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

The platform CAT CLAW, named in honor of RIT's Tiger mascot, provides a cost-effective customizable technical solutoin for different applications that will benefit deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

"Many electronic device functions, such as vibration settings on a smartphone or the sound notification on hematology instrumentation, have not been designed with deaf people in mind," notes Gary Behm, director of the CAT Innovation Lab and lead developer on the project. "The CAT CLAW, based on a micro- controller with Blue Tooth technology, can connect with these devices and provide a more robust, easily discernible alert."

The CAT team worked with ZVRS, Inc., a relay service provider, to produce a customized application for use with smartphones. The team worked with RIT's Intellectual Property Management Office to license CLAW technology to ZVRS and worked with the firm to develop specs, hardware components, and software code for the device.

"The project had multiple design components and required a significant amount of collabora- tion between software and hardware designers at RIT and engineers at ZVRS throughout the product development phase," notes Brian Trager, assistant professor of information technology.

The finished solution, which now is being produced by ZVRS, includes a pocket-sized device that looks like a memory stick and a smartphone application. It remotely links to the phone ringer and can provide a wide variety of alerts, including robust vibration and blinking lights.

"The device we developed is easy to use, relatively inexpensive, easily portable, and meets a significant market need," adds Joseph Stanislaw, assistant professor of information and computing studies.

The team will continue to work with ZVRS on next-generation versions of the solution and will also look to partner with other corporations on additional applications for the technology.

"It is our hope that this technology can ultimately be used to improve access to a wide variety of electronic and communication devices, while meeting CAT's mission to develop access technogies for individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing," Behm says.

NTID's Center for Access Technology

NTID's Center for Access Technology developed the CAT Claw, a software/hardware application that integrates with a smartphone to provide enhanced signal-alerting solutions for the deaf and hard of hearing.