Videophone is a fast-growing telephone device used by sign language natives or Deaf signers who communicate with one another in sign language. It is capable of both audio and video transmission over a phone line or Internet line, in which fiber optics enable the speed of data transmission.

Alexander Graham Bell, who had been interested in Deaf education and whose wife is deaf (Mabel Hubbard), received a patent for the telephone (called as "electrical speech machine") in 1876, with his original intention to help deaf people. Ironically, it became the primary telecommunication device for hearing people. Years passed by. Videophone was developed, apparently for a public use. In the end, inversely it became a common telecommunication device for Deaf signers and sign language users these days.

videophone in action
Talking via videophone, 2008.

Video Relay Service (VRS)

Today there is a number of video relay services in the U.S., in which ASL-English interpreters relay conversations between hearing speakers who use the audio-phone and Deaf signers who use a videophone.

Video Remote Interpreting

Deaf signers also use a videophone to use a remote interpreting service for a meeting or such. VRI helps reduce the costs of transportation and time for using an interpreting service.

Browse ASL and Deaf culture topics.