Now hear this: invention result of desperation.WHEN JO WALDRON WAS IN A CAR WRECK earlier this year, she grabbed her wireless phone and called the police, responding easily to their queries about location and possible injuries. So easily, in fact, that the responding officer may not have known she was deaf had she not asked if he had a moustache moustache Pitchfork, Whale's tail Interventional cardiology A popular term for the distal bifurcation of the left anterior descending coronary artery. See Collateral circulation. that would impair her lip reading lip reading, method by which the deaf are able to read the speech of others from the movements of the lips and mouth. It is sometimes referred to as speech reading, which technically also includes the reading of facial expressions and body language. .
"He asked if I was kidding," Waldron says with a laugh.
"I sad, 'About which part? Yes. I'm deaf and speaking to you on the telephone, and I need to know if we're going to be able to communicate readily when you get here.'"
Her phone is almost identical to any other--except for one tiny chip she has added. It's one millimeter square; anyone else wouldn't even know it was there. But for Waldron. Her micro-technology means the difference between hearing absolutely nothing and understanding every single word.
"The invention arose purely and simply out of desperation," Waldron says. "I have a closet full--a museum, really--of existing telephone devices. None of them work for me."
Waldron, who has spent more than 20 years as a powerful advocate for Americans with Disabilities Americans with disabilities comprise one of the largest minority groups in the United States. According to the Disability Status: 2000 - Census 2000 Brief , approximately 20% of Americans have one or more diagnosed psycho-physical disability. , formed Able Planet Inc. in August 2002 to test and refine her idea. It took about a year for the company, working closely with Dr. Joan Burleigh and the Colorado State University Colorado State University, at Fort Collins; land-grant with state and federal support; chartered 1870, opened 1879 as an agricultural college, assumed present name in 1957. There is a veterinary teaching hospital, an agricultural campus, and a research campus. computer and electrical engineering electrical engineering: see engineering.
Branch of engineering concerned with the practical applications of electricity in all its forms, including those of electronics. department, to come up with the versatile design.
The chip interacts with the "T-coil," an essentially archaic technology found in common hearing aids Hearing Aids Definition
A hearing aid is a device that can amplify sound waves in order to help a deaf or hard-of-hearing person hear sounds more clearly. , to create what Waldron describes as a direct wireless link between the hearing aid and the electronic device. As a result, sound clarity is drastically improved. In fact, the micro-technology elicits a 30 percent increase in word discrimination from traditional hearing-aid compatible telephone devices, which use a strong magnetic field to amplify, but not clarify, sound.
"We believe we've created a new industry standard," says Waldron. "People with impairment Impairment
1. A reduction in a company's stated capital.
2. The total capital that is less than the par value of the company's capital stock.
1. This is usually reduced because of poorly estimated losses or gains.
2. can literally hear 80 percent better."
And it's not just about phones.
Possible applications are virtually, limitless--stereos, televisions, computers. Ultimately, Waldron hopes the Able Planet technology can create a umversal system of communication accessibility for the hearing impaired.
"Simple daily communication, such as calling a friend or learning in a computer lab is incredibly frustrating frus·trate
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart: and most of the time impossible for people with hearing loss. And it's very, very lonely," she says. "I'm hoping to offer a broader world to the children of tomorrow, so they don't have to go through that living hell."
Partnering with Hyatt Hotels and Teledex LLC (Logical Link Control) See "LANs" under data link protocol.
LLC - Logical Link Control , Waldron has just made the first big step in the direction. Hyatt announced on June 11 that, beginning immediately with its 300 units in Colorado, the company would be installing Able Planet micro-technology in every phone in every hotel in North America North America, third largest continent (1990 est. pop. 365,000,000), c.9,400,000 sq mi (24,346,000 sq km), the northern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. . Waldron says Hyatt's resolve is sending a very powerful message to other businesses, and that Able Planet, offering the only successful internal electronic product, has been bombarded with interest from a broad spectrum of industries since the June press conference.
"Companies are beginning to realize that people with disabilities and their family members represent a sizable revenue stream that is completely untapped," says Waldron. "They can meet federal compliance standards while removing barriers to productivity at all levels around the planet. We're now working with many other corporations, even some in Japan and China. Making this universal is very doable."
In addition to cementing contracts with more companies, Able Planet intends to present several variations of the micro-technology over the coming months, including all-purpose headphones Head-mounted speakers. Headphones have a strap that rests on top of the head, positioning a pair of speakers over both ears. For listening to music or monitoring live performances and audio tracks, both left and right channels are required. .
"The technology is a tool to expand your choices," Waldron says. Then, laughing again, she adds, "I could be anything. I could be, god help us, a telemarketer."