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FCC Chairman Promises Open-Source Video-Conferencing Platform for ASL-Signing Callers

August 25, 2015 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Ellen Muraskin / Channel Partners Online

FCC Chairman Tim Wheeler addressed the biannual meeting of the Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc. (TDI) Conference in Baltimore on Thursday, with news of interest to anyone who works in assistive technologies..

The Commission is preparing an open-source videoconferencing platform for ASL (American Sign Language) communication and customer service, to be available "by this time next year." As a first step, Wheeler said, they will release mobile and desktop applications that "allow for text, voice and high-quality video calling into existing TRS (telecommunications relay service) providers."

TRS providers work something like language-translation services, establishing and interpreting phone calls between hearing and non-hearing people, using old-school TTY machines or IP-based text on the non-hearing side. Video relay service (VRS) interpreters can see and understand the ASL speaker on one leg of an IP video call, render it in speech on the other end, and vice versa.

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