Lifelinks’ Sightspeed Service for the Deaf Outpaces Ebay’s Skype VOIP

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Lifelinks VRS, a provider of video relay telephone-like service for the deaf and hard of hearing community using sign language over high speed broadband video, has experienced an unprecedented demand due to the recently unveiled, Sightspeed technology which, incidentally, also enables hearing members of the deaf person’s household to make 2 –cents- a- minute domestic long distance domestic telephone calls, to regular telephones (not just PC to PC) using their

LifeLinks and Sightspeed are unrelated and the deaf Sightspeed user can utilize Sightspeed’s software to access a VRS (video relay service) interpreter. The deaf user simply copies and pastes the Lifelinks list of interpreters into his/her contact list. The Lifelinks sign language interpreters include American Sign Language (ASL), Spanish as well as customer support provided by deaf technical specialists. The service is available 24/7/365 and is free to the deaf community.

With Lifelinks VRS, the hard of hearing can telephone a hearing person anywhere, including long distance and international, at NO COST. The reverse is also possible at no cost, i.e. a hearing person can call a deaf person (e.g. a physician or hospital can call a deaf person and communicate live or leave a video mail message via a LifeLinks sign language interpreter, or a hearing client can call a deaf representative of a telephone company, bank, insurance agency, etc. and do business). The deaf can also utilize the free Sightspeed software for interpersonal calls, without an interpreter, in a multiparty call involving 3 or more other persons (hearing or deaf). All of this software is free.

Lifelinks is “running rings” around $2 billion Skype (owned by E-Bay) which has not specifically addressed the needs of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community and which advertises their intention to charge for PC-based VOIP telephone service after December 31, 2006.

Lifelinks VRS is also accessible using D-Link type videophone devices, which attach to a TV, by calling Lifelinks’ IP addresses, e.g. 69.18.207.166 and 38.98.86.70.In fact, Lifelinks has recently introduced new technology which appears to have even better video quality, and is accessible via the latter of the above two IP addresses. Heretofore, Sorenson, another VRS provider with 70% of the market, has blocked its users from accessing other VRS service providers services, i.e. what the FCC terms "interoperability", its deaf users were prevented from calling a deaf person affiliated with any other company. That block is scheduled to be lifted in July, 2006 as a result of a consent decree with the FCC.    (http://www.nad.org/atf/cf/%7BA2A94BC9-2744-4E84-852F-D8C3380D0B12%7D/NADinteropreply.pdf). Then, true interoperability and freedom of choice for the deaf community will be possible.

One does not have to use LifeLinks VRS to use the Sightspeed software. International calling, by the deaf person’s household members, to regular telephones is also a bargain. The software is available free via the LifeLinks website at http://www.LifeLinksvrs.com.

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Eliane Uscher
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