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Mobility Flattens Barriers for the Hearing Impaired

May 23, 2006 - 0 Comments

Recently I have been following the news about Gallaudet University as it chooses a new President and it reminded me of our deployment there. Gallaudet is also one of the first large deployments of the centralized WLAN architecture, starting in the June/July 2003 timeframe. We are deployed in all 32 buildings, including the President’s home and the recent press reminded me of this customer who I stay in touch with on a regular basis.For those who don’t know about this university, it is the National College of Deaf Studies, funded by the U.S. Congress. It was the first college of its kind and was chartered by Abraham Lincoln in 1864; to date, it remains the premier institution of its kind in the world, home to college students from all 50 U.S. States and over 60 countries. It is the Oxbridge of hearing-impaired world. The campus is serene, beautiful — much of it a vintage snapshot of Civil War era architecture.I toured the campus several years ago with then President, Dr. King Jordan, and spent most of the day with him. Lots of folks using the network (we reviewed usage patterns in WCS -the big jump is right after dinner). IM is big. Video CAMs are big. Walking by the student center, you can see the students logged on and blogging. Gallaudet leads the world in both study programs as well as using technology for hearing-impaired and deaf education. They have pioneered video-relay of signed conversations to translators to make voice phone calls (they would be a great Beta for candidate for Cisco Unified Messaging). The campus is stuffed with PCs and video screens. What grabbed me on that visit, what grabbed my heart, was seeing these students in action. I received my first guided tour from a graduate student studying linguistics (Tranformational Grammar, Noam Chomsky anyone?). She signed me (and another student translated) how technology allows her to understand and model how speech, thought/cognitive process works in the human mind. She pointed out students flirting with each other, wirelessly, with Instant Messenger. It was amazing and eerie: the student center was quiet and hands were flying through the air, signing with passion and with verve, visual expressions communicating as well as words. Then it hit me like 36″ Louisville Slugger: technology, our technology, helps flatten the barriers for these gifted, wonderful young people, to participate and advance our society. Our network helped give them some advantages to their career and life development.And they thanked us for it.It was quite overwhelming and should stroke a passion in what we in the technology industry do. We will likely sell a lot of WLAN gear, but imagine the satisfaction of improving the lives and work of our customers like are at Gallaudet. Then we will be a great company that people will remember for a long time.”Even though I am nearly deaf, I seem to be gifted with a kind of inner hearing which enables me to detect sounds and noises which the ordinary listener does not hear.”- Thomas Edison

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