The Interpretype Opens Communication Lines

Dennis Faas's picture

The Interpretype has turned one auto repair shop into a haven for deaf customers, helping to triple sales figures compared with the previous period.

Ken Gan owns a garage in Rochester, New York. His shop seems to look like any other standard North American auto repair station, except for one major difference: the shop has an above-average number of deaf customers.

Gan admitted that he had searched for more accommodating equipment for quite some time, but nothing has been available on the market to facilitate face-to-face communication in a situation such as a shop or office.

So when all else fails, build it yourself.

Gan hired a team of electrical engineers and a patent attorney and came up with the Interpretype. The small device with an attached keyboard can hook up to another Interpretype or any other standard PC, allowing a hearing person and deaf person to type messages to each other. (Source:

The success of the Interpretype has led Gan to open up a second business directly above the shop that has sold more than a thousand devices to local schools, libraries, government offices and businesses.

It is estimated that 1-2 per cent of all Americans are either deaf or hard of hearing and new technologies like the Interpretype are slowly coming into more mainstream use. The sheer ability to allow deaf people to overcome many frustrations in everyday situations is a huge step forward towards easy socialization. (Source:

Another technology that has seen continued success in recent years is video relay. The video relay service allows a deaf person to telephone a hearing person using an interpreter. The interpreter and the deaf person communicate in sign language over a broadband video connection, while the interpreter speaks directly to the hearing person over a speakerphone.

The video relay service has also been viewed as a tremendous step forward for the deaf population, because the previous method involved an operator reading out a text that a deaf person would type into a device called a TTY. The TTY was more than 20 years old and exchanged basic text over phone lines using a modem. A literal dinosaur in the tech world. (Source:

Those interested in the Interpretype can pick one up for $995.

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