Convo Launches Platform for the Deaf Integrating Visual Notification System With Video Relay Service

Due to concerns about the lack of a safe and functionally equivalent emergency and public broadcast system in Deaf schools, Convo saw an immediate need for a safer and effective visual emergency and public broadcasting system. Convo Announce is the world's first platform to integrate visual emergency and public notification system with video relay service for schools, businesses and organization.

Dec 01, 2015, 10:00 ET from Convo Communications

PLEASANTON, Calif., Dec. 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Natural disasters, shootings, and other emergencies affect schools in this country on a recurrent basis, and when emergencies strike, most school administrators use the radio to communicate information and safety protocols. However, there are over 400,000 Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students in the U.S., as estimated by Cornell University's Disability Statistics, for whom an audio-based Public Announcement (PA) system would be ineffective.

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"America's current public warning and emergency communication systems get a failing grade from deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened and deaf-blind individuals. There are too few effective options for communication and the options currently available have largely proved unreliable," stated Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network in their Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Communication Access report.

Even in the largest and most prominent schools for the Deaf in the country, the emergency response technology available is still not functionally equivalent. For example, at California School for the Deaf, Fremont (CSD), the only way their administrators could communicate an emergency besides a fire alert is for a supervisor to physically run into every classroom and instruct safety protocols to the teacher. 

"Sending runners to notify of emergencies have always made us uneasy," said Ethan Bernstein, Dean of Students. "We have been searching for a safer solution that could communicate information simultaneously… but unfortunately, at the time, there wasn't an effective emergency announcement system for the Deaf." 

"I want immediate and live emergency announcements at school for my kids," James Harmon said. Harmon has three children at CSD. 

After Convo, a Deaf-owned telecommunications provider, learned from CSD Superintendent Dr. Sean Virnig that the PA system at CSD had serious limitations, the company saw an immediate need for a safer and effective visual emergency and public broadcasting system. The team at Convo created from the ground up Convo Announce, the world's first integrated Visual Notification System. Convo Announce runs on Convo TV, a multi-purpose videophone hardware. 

Convo Announce gives users access to a visual notification system, video relay service, and video broadcasting capabilities all on one platform, making it a truly integrated experience. With this technology, users will be able receive announcements as Picture-In-Picture while in video calls—which has not been possible in the past. There are three types of announcements that administrators can make on Convo Announce: live video announcement, emergency (text) announcement, and public (text) announcement. 

Imagine this scenario: there is an emergency at a school for the Deaf. The staff and students simultaneously receive a notification of the situation via Convo Announce. A staff member minimizes the announcement on the screen in order to make a point-to-point call to a co-worker or a video relay service call to reach 911, while continuing to be notified of updates on the emergency. After the emergency is over, a school administrator broadcasts a video announcement to the school on the outcome of the situation in the Deaf students' own language—sign language. All of this occurs on the same platform: Convo TV. 

Today, this is a reality at CSD. With 236 Convo TVs installed on campus, the Deaf students and staff have access to announcements, video calls, and more. Administrators can distribute school-wide or targeted announcements from any Convo TV on campus, easily accessed via a pin code. 

"We're thrilled that we now have a technology that will ensure everyone gets the same information at the same time during an emergency," said Bernstein.

"With Convo Announce, I feel safe and assured that things will be all right in an emergency. As a Deaf person, I am no longer left behind and everyone is on the same page," said JAC Cook, Community Resources Coordinator at CSD. "This type of technology is what many Deaf schools are lacking and it is what many need… This is indeed a universal design for schools."

As a multi-purpose platform, Convo TV also includes a Deaf Ecosystem Directory, a central resource for finding and supporting Deaf-owned businesses in the United States, and an Internal Directory, a convenient way of contacting Deaf or hearing employees through point-to-point calls within a school, business, or organization.

"Since 9/11… [we] have asked the government and industry to come up with options so that deaf adults and students can get immediate information when there is an emergency. Thanks to Convo and CSD for this collaborative partnership. We call on school districts, state schools for the deaf, and other special programs to follow their example," said Claude Stout, Executive Director of Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. 

The road doesn't end here. Not only are there around 400 schools and programs nationwide for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students, as recorded in the American Annals of the Deaf, without an effective visual emergency broadcasting system, there are hundreds of businesses and organizations for the Deaf in the U.S. looking for a safer solution as well. It is a goal of Convo's that every Deaf member in the country is prepared and aware during emergencies with Convo TV in schools and at work. No Deaf individual should be barred from having full access to information again.

SOURCE Convo Communications