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Front Page » February 26, 2009 » The Business Journal » Communication for all...Not just for some
Published 2,124 days ago

Communication for all...Not just for some


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There was a time, not many years ago, when deaf and hard of hearing people had few ways to communicate directly with people that were far away. They could write a letter, they could send a telegraph, or maybe have someone else who could communicate and hear to make a phone call for them.

Phone calls by others for them could be compromising, because if it was of a personal nature, then someone else would know their business.

But technology has changed much of that for people with a hearing challenged status. And right at the heart of this communication revolution is Sorenson Communications.

In April 2000, Utah entrepreneur James Lee Sorenson spotted a business opportunity in a key piece of video communication technology. He licensed the videophone technology to D-Link and began looking for market applications. He found the perfect fit for the videophone technology when his deaf brother-in-law described the challenges in sending video messages via Web cameras, which produced small, pixilated video.

In 2002, the Sorenson VP-100® videophone was created, then tuned to work with Sorenson Video Relay Service® (Sorenson VRS®), which was launched the next year as a partnership with Gallaudet University.

Gallaudet University is a world leader in liberal education and career development for deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduate students. The university has an international reputation for the outstanding graduate programs it provides deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing students, as well as for the quality of the research it conducts on the history, language, culture, and other topics related to deaf people.

In 2005, tens of thousands of video relay calls were placed weekly through SVRS, necessitating the establishment of Sorenson VRS Interpreting Centers across the United States.

In the fall of 2005, the company was sold. Pat Nola became president and CEO and currently serves in that position.

In August 2006, the VP-200®, Sorenson Communications' second-generation videophone was launched, revolutionizing the way deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who use ASL communicate. Sorenson Communications continues to break down communication barriers through the creation of innovative products and technologies and by providing outstanding Sorenson VRS through the highest-quality professional interpreters.

Sorenson Communications also provides Sorenson IP Relay which allows deaf and hard of hearing users to place text-based relay calls from a personal computer or mobile device to any telephone user in the United States. These centers are called SIPRelay Centers.

These technologies are being used in centers around the United States for people to communication disorders. And last fall one of the SIPRelay centers opened in Price.

The advantages to SIPRelay are many. It allows deaf, hard-of-hearing, oral deaf and late-deafened individuals to use mobile phones to conduct business or call family and friends when they are away from a videophone or a TTY 24 hours per day.

When deciding on where the new SIPRelay center would be, the company reviewed a number of locations. Price became a good choice because of the number of students that could be recruited to work at the center from the College of Eastern Utah and the fact that there were people in the area looking for good full time jobs.

"Our operations to help the deaf and the hard-of-hearing is amazing," says Beverly Draughon, the SIPRelay manager for the center. "We get a real sense of satisfaction working here."

Draughon says that the local worker pool has been excellent to work with and that the college has offered some strong quality candidates for the jobs available.

"We also have a number of permanent residents who work here," stated Draughon. "We have some very good Emery and Carbon people at this facility."

Draughon says that the community was very lucky to get the facility because it is a very stable work environment.

"This, unlike many businesses, is not cyclical," she said. "Our customer base doesn't come and go with the economic conditions. It remains steady."

In fact the company expects business will increase as word of the ability of hearing challenge people to use the service spreads. The company has already expanded its workforce from the initial numbers last October.

Former Price resident Jason Dunn, who is currently Sorenson Communications Vice President of Operations, reports that more than 100 local individuals are employed at the Price SIPRelay Center.

"Sorenson Communications was pleased to open the SIPRelay Call Center in Price, where there are many students who need part-time and flexible work and residents who seek full-time employment. The SIPRelay Call Center in Price and the communications assistants who work here are providing a much-needed service to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals," notes Dunn.

The job of communications assistant is an important one. They are the link between the person who is hearing challenged and the other end of the line. Obviously, confidentiality is a must.

"Our communications assistants help provide communication access for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who are located across the United States," said Draughon. "SIPRelay empowers deaf and hard-of-hearing people to communicate with hearing family, friends, and business associates any time they want, which helps them achieve functionally-equivalent communications."

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February 26, 2009
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