Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Buzz Off

I've mentioned a few times the benefits of having a deaf spouse. They can't pick up on the mutterings under your breath and then divorce you for being a jerk and of course sign language is useful for communicating through windows and at a distance when phones are not practical. Another advantage to sign language is that solicitors, beggars and hippies wanting signatures give up when they see someone using ASL (see here) because yeah, they want to save the Earth but not bad enough to learn how to communicate with a large percentage of the population.

There are several devices for the deaf we use to make life a little bit easier. Gizmos that flash lights when there is someone at the door, a camera connected to a monitor for telephone relays from deaf-to-deaf or deaf-to-hearing people and a few smart phone applications. Text messages is one of the greatest aids that exists for the deaf. From the caveman days of the TTY and expensive typing pagers to the ease of modern versions on cellphones it is texting that will probably be the primary and easiest form of communicating over a distance for the deaf. Texting is an equalizer (though many deaf I know dislike lowering themselves to the hearing standard). Video applications like Face Time has proven valuable and so has a similar application from Sorenson VRS that works on the computer and smartphone. Sorenson company supplies the high-speed internet-enabled cam-phone in our home and it works great.

Sorenson also have made available some flash cards for the phone for use when dealing with the non-signing public called Buzz Cards. Basically you show the Buzz Card to a cashier or cab driver or whomever to communicate your needs. They read it and then get your request wrong just like with all their hearing and speaking customers. I made some of my own in the past (right here) that where a bit artistic or practical for the spouse to use but I have to say the Buzz Cards are pretty handy. The basic set in the app comes with a few slides ready to go but the best thing about them is that they are fully customizable and the user can add new ones as they see fit.

As you can imagine that allows many shenanigans. Here are some examples (with shocking words pixelated for the faint of heart):

Yes, as much as I don't like jack-booted authoritarians I hate hippies even more. So the majority of what I have termed Buzz Off Cards (see what I did there?) are intended for them. When I'm at the mall and some girl pauses in texting her BFF (omg!!! hez sooo cute!) long enough to attempt to get my signature on a clipboard I have a choice of several images to show her. But they are not intended only for people who are trying to make the world a better place by standing around in shopping malls doing nothing! No, sir. Teens or older people begging for change at the stoplight can get an eyeful, too. You hold a sign up to my car window and I'll respond in kind with a Buzz Off Card.

So thank you, Sorenson. I express in all sincerity that by creating your application and making it available you have made people's lives better. The deaf can communicate with the hearing public a bit easier. My wife can order a coffee, find a restroom or successfully use a drive-thru through (especially at night after the dining area is closed or in areas she doesn't feel comfortable getting out of the car) thanks to you. I know it really improved my visits to the mall and made those uncomfortable meetings at traffic intersections a little less awkward.

And now, a pretty lady signing to The Sound of Sunshine...

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