Looking Ahead

Technology has been improving rapidly. Smartphones have become a necessary device in our
everyday lives. When smartphones were first introduced, companies created apps to replace
many of the everyday items which we used to rely on for maintaining connections.
Do you remember when you had to open up the glove compartment inside your car to take out
your map? Do you remember when it got dark and you had to take out your flashlight? Do you
remember when you had to open your front door to get the morning newspaper? Each of these
things were replaced by apps on the smartphone, making your phone the most useful tool in
your possession. Today, smartphone developers are building those apps directly into your
phone so that you don’t have to download and open an app. These “native” tools include:

● Maps
● GPS devices
● Cameras
● Watches
● Flashlight
● Calculators
● Alarm Clock/Clock
● Wallet

Technology continues to change, but often the Deaf community is not included in the innovation
process. This lack of representation causes frustration. The community often feels forgotten. We
are amazed by the ease with which the hearing community navigates life with new technological

The National Technical Institute for the Deaf’s (NTID) Center on Access Technology (CAT)
works with faculty, staff, and students to explore how technology can be used to benefit the
Deaf community. One of the research projects being worked on is exploring how smartphones
can be more inclusive of the Deaf and hard of hearing community. The current research started
with a question “What if we could make video relay services (VRS) native on smartphones?”
“What if we only had one phone number instead of a separate phone number for each VRS and
captioning company?”

For the past three years, NTID has been working with The MITRE Corporation to research
possible solutions to this problem. The research project is called IRIS. So far the research team
has resulted in a lab prototype of a mobile phone that includes VRS and captioning services
within the accessibility settings of a mobile phone. The next step for the research team is to
partner with members of the wireless communication industry to determine how the lab-tested
prototype can be transitioned for real-world use.

An important part of the work will be to gather the feedback and ideas of the Deaf and hard of
hearing community. If you would like to leave a feedback, please go to https://www.irisaccessibility.org/make-iris-happen