Steve Jobs Pushed for Video Relay Services for the Hearing Impaired in 2010
Thanks to an Email Request
By Lory | October 27, 2014
In 2010, when Apple first provided FaceTime to the world on the iPhone 4 one small company dedicated to bridging the communication gap for hearing people and the deaf and hard of hearing decided that they wanted that for their services.
CSDVRS, dubbed “Z” for short, was recently honored at this year’s Tampa Bay Business 100 awards ceremony. The event highlights the 100 largest private companies in Tampa Bay.
In his speech, CEO Sean Belanger detailed how he went about help from Apple for offering the video relay services (VRS) through Facetime. He was working with the program independently, but was struggling with how to merge the feature with the service.
“I sent an email to Steve Jobs, a very concise email about who I was, what I did and we needed help,” Belanger said. “In four days, I get a call from a guy who said ‘I’ve been told to help you, I don’t know why, I don’t know who you are, I work for Apple and I can’t tell you who told me to call you.’ ”
Shortly thereafter, Apple flew three engineers to the company’s headquarters and helped Z get VRS connected with Facetime so that, for the first time ever, a deaf person could communicate on a mobile phone call.
VRS is a service that connects deaf and hard of hearing persons with a hearing person using video calling. In 2010, video calls were not nearly as common as they are now. Many people did not even have that function on their smartphones. So, VRS would have a middleman, or a relay person, that would communicate with the hearing impaired person via video calling, and transmit the words through a regular phone to the recipient.
Facetime made that possible on mobile devices.
Now, video services like Facetime, Google video hangouts, and Skype are on every smartphone. Communication between the deaf and hard of hearing community and the hearing community is much better than ever before thanks to the work of software engineers who just wanted to bring the future to us.