At Its Best, Modern Communications Helps the Challenged

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There is no mention in this Sydney Morning Herald story if or when the Epoq Bluetooth-based hearing aid from Oticon, a Dutch firm, will be available in the United States.


Hopefully, it is available here already or will be soon. The Oticon, which lets hearing-impaired people use mobile devices, comes in two parts. A "streamer" communicates over Bluetooth with the handheld device. It then transmits the signals it receives via another wireless protocol to twin devices in the user's ears. The story isn't technical: It doesn't say which protocol connects the streamer to the ear pieces, nor provide a reason that Bluetooth can't be used from end to end.


This Computing piece provides another wonderful example of the creative ways in which modern communications can help the impaired. The Seeingeyephone, a product of research at VTT in Finland, lets sight-impaired shoppers get information about products while they are in the store. The system users radio frequency identification (RFID), near field communications (NFC) and a mobile phone with text-to-speech synthesizer functionality to read information such as expiration date, ingredients and price that is embedded on the container.


Many resources are available. This posting at Deaf News Network provides information on how non-voice elements of cell phones such as short messaging service (SMS) can be used by hearing-impaired people. It also provides some input on how to check if a cell phone can be used with a hearing aid.


There are, of course, many other sources of help on the Internet for people with challenges. A good example is maganifiers.org, a site that points to a tremendous amount of news and product information for the sight-impaired. This section of the EdNews site plays the same role for people with hearing issues.


Modern technology helps in two ways: The Internet and related networks provide information as well as tangible help to impaired people. The result is inclusion and a better way of life for a large segment of the population.