Newswise — Washington, D.C., October 26, 2015 – MedStar Washington Hospital Center has installed an innovative videophone booth for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing to communicate with others in real-time. The Sorenson Video Relay Service® (SVRS®) videophone allows those who use American Sign Language (ASL) to place phone calls through a sign language interpreter.

When a deaf caller dials the phone number of a hearing person, the ASL interpreter appears on the video screen and relays the conversation between the two participants. Making this technology available helps Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people to communicate, each in their own native language. This is crucial when sharing important health information with their family and friends, or with other health care providers. The Washington, D.C., region is home to a large concentration of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community, and for patients like Michelle McAuliffe, eliminating communication barriers in health care settings makes a big difference.

“It was so comforting to know that when I came to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, I wasn’t going to have to worry about communicating,” said McAuliffe. “I knew I would have access to that communication every time I received care.”

The hospital’s dedicated videophone booth is located in the main hallway by the C/D elevators. Plus, portable iPads®, equipped with the SVRS software, are available for use.

“By providing this videophone technology, we can offer patients the choice to communicate with any hearing person outside of the hospital through a live, on-screen interpreter, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” added Joshua Hughes, a Hospital Center staff sign language interpreter. “We are committed to ensuring the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing have access to the same communication features as our hearing community.”

Currently, the Hospital Center utilizes two nationally certified interpreters, who are on-site and available to provide additional assistance to patients 24 hours a day.

Plans are in the works for additional videophones in the hospital. The videophone technology is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, and is HIPAA compliant, ensuring calls are private and confidential.