Pressure grows for video service for deaf
North Okanagan politicians are making some noise over a lack of communications for the deaf.
Regional District of North Okanagan directors will write the MP, MLA, prime minister and the Canadian Radio Television Telecommunications Commission demanding a permanent video relay service for deaf and hard of hearing people in Canada.
“Let’s just bombard them (with letters),” said director Shirley Fowler.
RDNO directors also want deaf residents to have the ability to text 911 during an emergency.
Through, VRS a deaf person signs via an Internet videophone linked to a sign language interpreter. The interpreter then relays the conversation vocally to a hearing recipient.
The service allows a conversation to be carried on between both individuals. But while it was provided by Telus on a trial basis for 18 months, funding ended in January.
“This service should be reinstituted,” said director Rick Fairbairn.
Lobbying for VRS has been Arlene Brenner, a local resident who has been deaf since birth.
“People in the U.S. are far ahead and moving towards VRS,” she said.
“We want many letters. We want this to go to the prime minister and to the MLAs and the MPs. There needs to be a united voice.”
The lack of VRS became obvious when Brenner’s elderly mother was in the hospital.
“There was no way I could phone the hospital to see how my mom was doing,” she said.
Her mother died recently and Brenner was given a phone number by health personnel and told to call a funeral home.
“I had to give that task to a social worker to do it for me,” said Brenner.
Besides the video relay service, Brenner believes there is a need for the deaf to be able to text 911 during an emergency.
“Currently, 911 is only accessible to people who can hear. But it should be accessible to anyone,” she said.