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  DCI.DEAFNET Keep in touch with DEAFNET...
In April, 1978 the Deaf Community Center received funding from the Department of
H.E.W. to evaluate the uses of computerized telecommunications for the deaf in
Boston. Although the three year pilot program was a demonstration project, one of
the goals was to develop a permanent communications network. With the incorporation
of Deaf Communications Institute in 1980, this goal has been realized.

At the beginning of the project 50 computer terminals were distributed among deaf
families, clubs, and service organizations. We began an electronic mail message
system offering computer conferencing and bulletin boards. While the network was
local, we used BBN's HERMES message system; when we made the big decision to
"go national", we switched to GTE's TELEMAIL. By using an already developed
business tool, we were able to offer the deaf community a national system during
off-hours at reduced rates.

At every stage of the project deaf users have been actively involved ...from
teaching new members the system, to evaluations, to participation on the board of
directors (51% of the Board of Directors are deaf).

In the fall of 1983 electronic mail services for the deaf will take another step
forward when the Department of Education launches its national "Deafnet"
dissemination project to acquaint leaders of the deaf communities in large
metropolitan cities across the United States with the concept of "Deafnet."
Some of the major users of DCI.DEAFNET are deaf people who are involved in
such organizations as the National Association for the Deaf, the Oral Deaf Adult
Section, Alexander Graham Bell Society, and Telecommunications Devices, Inc.
Board members in a dozen major cities have telephone connections for
DCI.DEAFNET. The two seem made for each other. These people have a need to
communicate with each other as part of their ongoing advocacy efforts and on a
social basis. Electronic mail can accomplish both, as well as cut the costs of high
telephone bills.

We envision a growth in the network when these first national users encourage
more of their branches to participate. Future users will be athletic club members,
students, hearing relatives, and businesses employing the handicapped.
We are grateful for the many volunteer hours and expertise of Diane Koehler, the
technical committee, board members, and all users who have helped to make the
network grow. At this stage of our development we could not have survived without
the financial and moral support of the following: General Telephone & Electronics
(GTE Corporation, GTE Labs, GTE Telenet), Digital Equipment Corporation, The
Benton Foundation, and the many friends and supporters of DCI.DEAFNET.





DEAFNET – The Word’s Getting Around: Local Implementation
 of Telecommunications Networks for Deaf Users

By Teresa Middleton, M.B.A.


Teresa Middleton is a Program Manager in the Social Sciences Center of SRI International (formerly Stanford Research Institute). A specialist in technology and social systems, she has participated in a number of studies involving the use of technology in education settings. She recently worked on a study investigating the feasibility of a national information system for the handicapped in The Netherlands. Ms. Middleton is the project director of the DEAFNET Dissemination Project, a 2-year study funded by the Special Education Program office in the U.S. Department of Education.

Middleton obtained her B.Sc. from Syracuse University and her M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and has completed computer courses at Stanford University.


The feasibility af DEAFNET, a computer-based telecommunications network for the deaf, has been established. DEAFNET provides electronic messaging, bulletin board access, and real-time linking capabilities for deaf users, their hearing friends, businesses, and services. DEAFNET is accessible by both telecommunication devices for the deaf (TD Ds) and ASCII-based computer terminals. DEAFNET software is designed especially for the deaf user. 

Now leaders in deaf communities in major metropolitan areas are working to establish their own self-supporting local DEAFNETs. Using display terminals, TDDs, and line printers provided IJy the 2-year U.S. Department of Education project, they teach deaf persons about the communication potential of this technology. Support from business and education is solicited as local groups establish a user base and initiate their systems. Because a future objective is a nationwide DEAFNET, investment in local systems that will be compatible with each other is encouraged. 

The impact of advanced technologies on everyday communication has been considerable in our information-conscious society. Although we are still urged to "reach out and touch someone," that someone may no longer be kindly old grandpa, whom we haven’t seen for a while, but may be a business associate in Oregon we are teleconferencing with, a special education teacher in Florida who has posted a sample lesson plan on a electronic bulletin board, or just Hal the Computer, with files to be retrieved and stored. The telephone has become a key link for interactions in this information society. Severe limitations, however, are imposed on the more than two million people in this country whose hearing loss makes it impossible for them to use the telephone without a special communications device.

Now DEAFNET offers a way for hearing impaired people, whose information sources have previously been limited by their available channels of communication, to interact with and benefit from the new communications-based society.


Figure 1    The DEAFNET SYSTEM



First of all, DEAFNET is a concept of a network of deaf persons who have a special communications need and who can now interact with each other (and with hearing persons) to share information, experiences, and learning and to conduct business.

But DEAFNET is also a system. It is a computer-based telecommunications network accessed by either telecommunications device for the deaf (TDDs) or standard computer terminals. (See Figure 1.) Users of the network (a) send, receive, and store electronic messages; (b) post and read messages on an electronic bulletin board; and (c) link together in real time to confer or just chat.

One way to think of the electronic mail capabilities offered by DEAFNET is to think of similar services provided by the neighborhood post office. With electronic messaging, a user has a "mailbox" where messages are saved. When new mail comes in, it must be "picked up" and put in the mailbox. Once in the box, messages can be scanned (much as one glances at the outside of envelopes before opening the mail) or read. Each box is private, and its contents are kept confidential by means of a password chosen by the user. The password serves as a "key" to the mailbox.

The electronic bulletin board (bboard) is much like bulletin boards found in libraries, resource centers, classrooms, and supermarkets. Items of interest can be posted and revised as often as necessary. Typical DEAFNET boards contain news of local interest, weather, vacation trips, poetry jokes, and so on. They are open to all users.

Linking in real time is a special feature of DEAFNET that many electronic messaging systems do not provide. A user on the system can check to see who else is on the system and, with TALK command, can be linked to that person so the two can carry on a conversation.

DEAFNET is currently running on the DEC PDP 11/48 at SRI’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters. Although DEAFNET is now implemented only on a minicomputer, the new generation of less expensive microcomputers offers considerable capabilities. We believe that microcomputers will serve as DEAFNET nodes in the near future.

The preliminary research on DEAFNET has been done. Now the goal is to give local leaders of deaf communities the encouragement, information, training, and technical assistance to implement DEAFNET in the 20 largest metropolitan areas of the United States over the next two years. So that readers will understand fully what DEAFNET is, and what it promises for the future, its background and history will be briefly reviewed.


Before 1963 deaf people had little access to the telephone system. That year Robert H. Weitbrecht and James C. Marsters adapted teletypewriters (TTYs) for use by the deaf. The machine they selected for adaptation was the Baudot machine, which represents characters with a five level code. Deaf persons could link together in remote real-time conversations. At the same time, however, the development of computers was proceeding, and the standard being set for encoding information between computers was the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII). The provision of low-cost IDs represented a major move forward for communications by deaf persons, while at the same time it was painting the deaf user into a communications corner. Messaging from terminal to computer and from computer to computer used the ASCII standards. Baudot code was used exclusively by TTYs. Being exclusive can be good, but in this case it restricted deaf users’ ability to communicate with the rest of society and denied them access to the growing number of computer-based information sources.

In 1978 researchers at SRI, under contract to the U.S. Department of Education, undertook to design a demonstration system that would make currently available communication services accessible to the deaf community. The system was to be implemented with readily available components and allow remote access to a computer via dial-up lines from TDDs as well as standard computer terminals. In other words, we were to overcome the Baudot/ASCII interface problem. The computer would also be programmed to allow direct communication between two or more terminals and message generation, transmission, storage, and retrieval.

A major integration effort was necessary to meet the specific needs of deaf users and the capabilities of their terminals. Hardware had to be modified to resolve modem and baud rate differences; the interface between hardware and user programs had to be modified to allow for code conversion; and software had to be written for use by TDD terminals, which are limited to a set of only 58 characters (as opposed to an ASCII terminal, which allows for the printing of 96 characters), and acceptance of either half duplex transmission (from TDDs) or full-duplex transmission (from ASCII terminals) by the user. (For more specific technical information on this effort, see the SRI technical reports listed in the Bibliography.)

By the end of the project a tailored system allowing access by TDD and ASCII terminals was shown to be feasible and to have support from deaf users. Demonstration systems existed in Washington D.C., and Menlo Park. Access to each system was available to both five-level TDDs and seven-level ASCII terminals.

The U.S. Department of Education funded another contract concurrent with the SRI research. In a demonstration project, the Deaf Community Center of Framingham, Massachusetts, evaluated the use of computerized telecommunications for the deaf in Boston. They distributed 50 ASCII terminals among deaf families, clubs, and service organizations to assess the acceptance of electronic messaging and bulletin boards by the deaf community. At the end of the project, the Deaf Community Center board decided to institute this form of DEAFNET as a national network. The Deaf Communications Institute was formed, and a group of users was connected to the General Telephone and Electronics Corporation Telemail system. Using TELENET (a valued-added network), members accessed the Deaf Communications Institute’s DEAFNET via ASCII terminals to do electronic messaging, post messages, and read items of interest on special DEAFNET boards.


It is now time for DEAFNET to go public. Working with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and once again supported by the U.S. Department of Education, our goal is to give local leaders of deaf communities the encouragement, information, training, and technical assistance to implement DEAFNET in the 20 largest metropolitan areas over the next two years. Later, deaf initiators must create and operate continuing systems.


Our objective is to place DEAFNET where it belongs – in the hands of deaf people at the local level – as quickly as possible. Our design calls for implementation in ten cities in the first year. To achieve our objective, we first looked to communities that appeared ready to accept the concept. Readiness is defined as the existence of a group of deaf computer enthusiasts in the community, an existing organization with a strong computer orientation, or even the presence of a computer-wise leader who is charismatic and powerful enough to be able to sell the concept to the community.

Figure 2 lists the 20 target metropolitan areas. The next step is to select a deaf leader from each ready community. These leaders are people who recognize the potential a DEAFNET network offers as a vital communication link between deaf persons, between deaf persons and their hearing family and friends, and between deaf persons and business. The leaders also know how to realize that potential.

Leaders attend an intensive three-day training program designed to meet the following goals:

  1. Familiarize them with the concept of computer networking and the DEAFNET system housed on an SRI computer.
  2. Make them comfortable with using computer equipment by which they can teach potential users in their communities about DEAFNET.

  3. Fully inform them about techniques for organizing, outreach, finding and using volunteer help, fundraising, and setting user rates.


       Anaheim, California

      *Los Angeles, California

       San Diego, California

      *San Francisco/Oakland, California

      *Washington, DC

       Atlanta, Georgia

       Chicago, Illinois

      *Boston, Massachusetts

       Baltimore, Maryland

       Detroit, Michigan

      *Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

       Cleveland, Ohio

       Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

      *St. Louis, Missouri

      *Newark, New Jersey

       Nassau/Suffolk, New York

      *New York, New York

       Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      *Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

       Houston, Texas


      Figure 2. The 20 target metropolitan areas for implementation of DEAFNET over the next two years. (Asterisk indicates that SRI is currently working in these areas.)


      Networking with DEAFNET

      Each leader is provided with a mailbox on SRI’s DEAFNET (DNSRI) and becomes a member of the DNSRI network, which includes people from the local California deaf community, SRI staff members, agencies for hearing-impaired persons, rehabilitation and referral agencies, and so on.

      As soon as training is completed, leaders are provided with the equipment on which they were trained and which they will use to demonstrate DEAFNET and train others in their communities. The equipment consists of a Zenith ZT-1 terminal, a Superphone (a terminal with built-in coupler that allows for either Baudot or ASCII hookup), and an Epson printer.

      Demonstration Instruction

      With this equipment they are ready to demonstrate (and train others to demonstrate) the benefits of networking – and the unique benefits of DEAFNET – to potential users at the local level. One way they demonstrate and train others is to set up the equipment in a meeting hall or resource center where interested people can see the system at work and get comfortable using a remote computer. Would-be users try out the keyboard, dial up the messaging system, link with others who are on the computer at the same time, read bulletin boards, messages, and generally become acquainted with the new technology in an environment in which they are comfortable.

      Another way leaders demonstrate the system to private and business users is by taking just the Superphone to an individual’s home or office and dialing up DEAFNET for an individual show-and-tell.

      Establishing a local DEAFNET

      A critical factor in today’s DEAFNET is that the local operation must be self-supporting. Demonstrations in the previous project showed that there is a high degree of interest by deaf persons in such communication services and that they would be willing to pay for them. However, before a network is operational, users must be found and equipment leased or purchased; and people must learn how to operate and run the system and the organization. Although it is likely that most communities will be able to start their local DEAFNET with a microcomputer as a node, there still must be a considerable outlay of funds.

      For this reason we have researched possible sources of funding and have discussed with the leader how funds can be raised. Leaders are also given detailed guidelines and support on setting user rates and on using our capabilities of the computer such as accounts handling, word processing, and label generation to help support costs.

      Who will use DEAFNET?

      DEAFNET users will be many and varied. Some examples are as follows:

  1. Any individual, deaf or hearing, can keep in touch with friends, read news, check on the weather, find out about vacations, read poetry, swap jokes, or find a good lasagna recipe on boards.
  2. A resource agency can use a bboard to provide a listing of assignments for which interpreters are needed and can receive in its mailbox messages from individuals requesting interpreter service and from interpreters who want to take on the assignments.

  3. A school can maintain one or more mailboxes for use by teachers and students. Use of the boxes, which can be accessed from home or classroom, will encourage computer literacy and provide better understanding of telecommunications, computer file management, networking, and electronic messaging. Students who are absent one day could check in for homework assignments – although that capability might decrease DEAFNET’s popularity.

  4. A relay service that might normally take TDD calls and relay them by voice only eight hours a day can maintain a mailbox to receive nonurgent messages called in any time of the day or night for later relay.


One way to raise funds is to approach businesses such as retail merchandising chains or banks to become users of the system. It can be pointed out that the system can allow people to order items from a frequently updated electronic catalog or to conduct financial transactions from their homes. Although the number of deaf persons who are unable to use the telephone may not seem great from a business standpoint, the success of a low-cost, easy-to-use network like DEAFNET would also encourage hearing persons to try the technology.

For this same reason we encourage leaders and others at the local level not to restrict DEAFNET use to those who have impaired hearing, but to encourage hearing friends and family members as well as businesses to use and support the communications network



We believe that the success of DEAFNET will depend on two factors. First, it must be fully adopted by deaf persons themselves. SRI serves as the facilitator in the process, but the deaf community must be the implementer. If deaf persons believe in the benefits of the network, they can make it happen. A necessary part of the design is that SRI will provide assistance only until the fall of 1984. After that time local communities will be on their own.

A second factor for success is that, although purely local networks can be put into place, deaf people in local communities should plan nationally. We encourage communities to coordinate system designs and lease/purchase decisions so that they have compatible systems. We do not promote such coordination just because a national DEAFNET will, in the long run, be more cost-effective; there is also a more philosophical reason. As people generally become more sophisticated technologically, others will move in to provide such services. With this project, the deaf community has a chance to move ahead and show the way in an exciting communications environment. We would not like to see this opportunity lost.



Allan, D. S., Craighill, E. J., Oren, S. S., Jackson, C. L., Russell, S. H., Huntley, H. L., & Silson, J. A 
Nationwide communication system for the hearing impaired: Strategies toward commercial implementation. Final report prepared for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Menlo Park, Calif. SRI International, 1981. 

Didsbury, H. R, Jr. (Ed.). Communications and the future. Bethesda, Md.: World Future Society, 1982. 

Harrenstien, K., Craighill, E. J., Fylstra. D. J., Huntley, H. L., Ross, W. c., & Russell, S. H. DEAFNET: A distributed communications service for the deaf. Final report prepared for the U.S. Department of Education. Menlo Park, Calif. SRI International, 1982. 

Slotnick, J. Brief history of events in telecommunications for the deaf. DEAFNET dissemination training manual, prepared for training program conducted at SRI International, 1983. 


In preparing this paper, I have received help and support from a number of SRI staff members who have been close to DEAFNET for many years. They include Earl Craighill, who has been responsible for the overall design of DEAFNET, and who reviewed this paper and offered valuable support and advice; Ken Harrenstien, himself deaf, who was a key designer of DEAFNET and is the person who knows most about its inner workings; Hal Huntley, whom most DEAFNET users know as the one who answers all their questions, and who helped put the user manual together; and Dave Fylstra, a software specialist who conducted the microcomputer survey for the current project - the illustration used in this paper is based on Dave's original artwork. 





Earl Craighill


From - 

NETWORKING AND DEAFNESS- -Editors William P. McCrone, Roger L. Beach, Frank R. Zieziula
Department of Counseling - School of Education and Human Services - Gallaudet College - Washington, DC 20002
Proceedings of the National Conference American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association Seattle, Washington
March 17-21, 1982- Published by American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association 814 Thayer Avenue Silver Spring, Maryland 20910


One of the most frustrating aspects of deafness is the pervasive
sense of dependence surrounding so many communication activities and
functions. There are few artifacts of modern civilization that underscore
this dependence as frustratingly as does the telephone. If one
needs a plumber, a tow truck, a plan reservation, a cab, or a pizza, the
hearing person thinks nothing of his dependence on the people involved
or on the instrument he uses. to summon them. Neither would the deaf
person, if this summoning were possible. But it is not and on every
one of these occasions a hearing person must be found and, somehow,
asked "will you please call for me?", with each such request adding to
the feeling of helplessness and frustration. Few people can afford a
permanent secretary, and it would be a very unusual person who would
always be instantly available to respond to a deaf friend's calling
needs. Although there are service centers where volunteers make calls
in response to teletypewriter (TTY) requests, this does not alter
necessity of such interposition. The deaf person is constantly aware of
this. He is also aware that even the TTY-to-voice centers are sometimes
ill-staffed or too poorly funded to provide adequate support or sufficient
hours of operation.

A deaf person wanting to make use of a telephone is confronted by a
great many stumbling blocks. A hearing person in a telephone-oriented
society may have difficulty fully understanding the psychological effects
of such blocks, but there are some areas of activity, such as
employment, in which the practical consequences are obvious. The primary
reason the telephone offers such an advantage to the hearing worker
in comparison to his deaf counterpart is the vast difference in the
amount of energy required for a hearing person's telephone call compared
to the effort a deaf person must expend on writing a letter or transporting
himself from one place to another in order to communicate. With
pure information becoming a more and more valuable commodity, the deaf
person becomes more and more severely handicapped by his inability to
use the telephone.

Deafness entails a multitude of incompletely understood factors,
and there is no single panacea to be found. However, there is no reason
that the deaf, as well as the hearing, should not benefit from the great
advances in communication that the telephone has spurred. Indeed, it is
singularly appropriate that this benefit be provided by a further
development of the very technology on which the telephone is based,
i.e., electronics.

This paper discusses some investigations we have been conducting
into an efficient, low-cost telephone replacement for the deaf. A
long-term goal of this work funded by the Department of Education and
the Department of Commerce, is to investigate a wide range of telecommunication
services for the deaf that might be provided through a
nationwide access network. We have been collaborating in this effort
with Gallaudet College in Washington, DC, Telecommunications for the
Deaf, Inc., (TDI), Communications Studies and Planning, Ltd. (CS&P) of
London, England, Deaf Counseling, Advocacy, and Referral Agency (DCARA)
of Oakland, CA., and the Deaf Counseling Center of Framingham, MA.


The key objectives of our studies are to define an affordable, useful,
new communication service for the deaf and to assess the viability
of developing commercial computer-communication, networks to provide
these communication serves to the deaf community on a nationwide basis.
The motivation is to help the deaf overcome the difficulties they experience
in using the telephone system, radio, and, to a certain extend, TV
in this modern communication-intensive world. In the process of achieving
this goal, the deaf and other handicapped individuals could become
the vanguard of the computer-based communication movement rather than
continuing to lag years behind the technology. The combined service
that we describe (denoted DNAS Deaf Network and Associated Services)
would allow access by existing Baudot/Weitbrecht Telecommunications
devices for the Deaf (TDDs) as well as by ASCII terminals with
bell modems and would provide limited intercommunication between deaf
and hearing.

The more than 40,000 Baudot TDDs used by the deaf today are primitive
devices when compared to the half million ASCII computer terminals
now in general use. Faster and more reliable, the ASCII terminals offer
more features for the money. More important, the ASCII standard is used
almost exclusively in the ever-growing number of computer-communication

Is It The Right Time for Computer-Communication Services?
The Deafnet demonstrations have offered the deaf valuable exposure
to new technologies, while giving researchers fresh understanding of the
deaf user's needs. The research has shown, for instance, that EMS for
the deaf should have features which are also suitable for the broader
market of home consumers. In particular, the system should be easy to
operate and affordable, with charges based more on the services used
rather than time spent on the system.

But the full potential of electronic text services for the deaf
community will not be realized until several transitions are completed.
First, the telecommunications industry itself is not only growing
rapidly but is in the midst of a massive restructuring due to the
Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) deregulation decision in its
second computer inquiry. Although such deregulation may generate new
industry competition and superior products at lower prices, computer
inquiry II probably will bring with it a shift to cost-based pricing of
telephone services. Second, as the telecommunications industry grapples
with internal restructuring, it will, at the same time, be struggling to
penetrate a marketplace that may resist some of its newest products and
services. Finally, as part of this general process of innovation
diffusion, the deaf will be facing still another change that is even
more directly relevant to their immediate concerns: the technological
transition from outmoded Baudot teletypewriters used exclusively by the
hearing impaired to ASCII-standard terminals used in computer-communications.
This transition will not only minimize the cost of serving the
deaf, but will also lead to the fullest market penetration and the
largest overall net social benefit.

The Deafnet experiment, while it has demonstrated technical feasibility,
falls far short of demonstrating ultimate commercial viability
on a nationwide basis. To be profitable, a product or service must be
low enough in cost to attract customers willing to pay for it. Although
the cost of computer hardware has dropped dramatically in recent years,
telecommunications costs (as seen by both supplier and user) have stayed
relatively constant. For DNAS, we expect some such economies, but not
substantial ones. Whereas communication costs are estimated to be about
33 percent of total costs for serving the urban population, they might
constitute as much as 51 percent of total costs for the rural population,
resulting in an overall figure of 42 percent for a system
reaching all users.

The communication systems the deaf use must be convenient, affordable,
and reliable, with adequate privacy protections. As the present
incompatibility between the Baudot and ASCII standards demonstrates, the
communication system also must be flexible enough to accept or adapt to
technical improvements as engineers and vendors make them available.
A communication system for the deaf must be responsive to its users'
multiple limitations. Specifically, the system must be easy to use with
a minimum amount of training. Because a written "conversation" between
two deaf individuals will take significantly longer than its spoken
counterpart, user costs should not be determined solely by time spent on
the system. Indeed, cost is an especially critical factor given the
comparatively limited incomes of many of the hearing impaired.

Computer-communication services are more prevalent in the commercial
sector, where Xerox, IBM, AT&T, and Wang are just a few of the
companies aggressively promoting various components of the "office of
the future." Although effective, such services usually are priced well
beyond the means, of most deaf or residential users.

In short, the public at large must become more aware of, and confident
in, the ability of electronic text systems to function as partial
replacements for traditional telephone service, mail delivery, and
publishing. To put it differently, the proponents of computer-communication
services must acknowledge and solve the problem of innovation
diffusion, the means by which society learns of, and begins to use, a
new product or service.

The technical problems of developing a communication system for the
deaf have, for the most part, been solved. Deafnet demonstrates that
computer communication can provide a wealth of options never before
available to the hearing impaired. While minor hardware and software
adjustments still are necessary, the major problem now facing the
community is ignorance--the deaf must be informed of the new service.
Without that knowledge and support, even the most superb technical
system offered at an affordable price may go unused.

What Should A "Deafnet" Provide?

In general, most Deafnet users interviewed were very enthusiastic
about the system and hoped that it could continue. As the reported
usage data suggest, by far their favorite feature is the electronic
message service. The popularity of this service explains many respondents'
desire that their friends be on Deafnet and that Deafnet be
expanded to more areas of the nation.

A number of users suggested that newsletters and workshops explaining
how to use Deafnet would be helpful. These suggestions reflected
the feeling of many respondents that they did not understand how to use
Deafnet as well as they would have liked, often because they felt the
manual was confusing or because they were unaware of, or felt uncomfortable
with, the on-line instructions. These comments point up the
importance, whatever the service, of simple instructions and ease of

When asked about features that should be added to the system, the
most enthusiasm was expressed for a communication or answering service
of either a voice-text conversion type or a standard message service.

How Much Should Deafnet Cost?

A majority of the respondents said they would be willing to pay the
somewhat higher bills (almost always under $20) that we expect for
similar usage patterns on a commercial nationwide system. It seems
likely that, if the system actually were nationwide and had a large
number of users, its value would be increased considerably beyond what
is perceived at this point, since its practical value as a communication
device would be so much greater.

The recent California legislation and the CPUC implementation program
to have the telephone companies distribute dual-mode TDDs to
certified deaf individuals at no additional cost above the standard
monthly phone charge will generate a large population of ASCII-compatible
terminals for use by the deaf. As this type of legislation spreads
to other states, even more users will become aware of, and skilled in,
new communication capabilities. They will also begin realizing the
(proportionately higher) cost of using direct distance dialing over the
telephone network for terminal communications. This will spawn a group
of users familiar with terminal equipment that demand lower-cost
communication systems. The terminals will be (nearly) compatible with
digital networks and thus can take advantage of them as well as force
the development of better communication services.

Cost is an especially critical factor for the deaf, who often have
low incomes due to their comparatively limited employment opportunities.
Whether one is considering conventional telephone service or the most
sophisticated computer-communication system, cost can be divided into
two elements: (1) the cost of terminal equipment and maintenance and
(2) the cost of transmission services.

Prices for conventional TDDs range from $450 to $750. TDDs can be
leased from the telephone companies at per-monthly rates from $6.68
(Michigan) to $15.30 (Kentucky). Of course, the convenience of leasing
may surrender the choice of TDDs to the telephone company, which may,
unwittingly, frustrate the distribution of new equipment using the ASCII

Although growing steadily since the late 1970s, the market for personal
computers is expected to explode within the next five years. The
anticipation of rapid growth has spawned the development of new businesses
eager to supply housewives, students, and small commercial users
with an array of supportive services ranging from electronic information
retrieval to customized software.

Improved software and processing ability could represent an important
breakthrough for many deaf users who are intimidated by the new
technology or frustrated in its use, given their sometimes poor language
skills. Personal computers are not inexpensive, although a few already
are competitive with conventional TDDs with prices ranging from $399 to
$2,500. The sheer number of models, brands, and prices may intimidate
some potential users. This characteristic, combined with the fact that
retailers will often offer discounts of up to 30 percent for bulk
orders, suggests an important role for leaders in the deaf community: a
computer-communication system may be more successful and economical if
it is introduced simultaneously to a group of deaf users. A group
introduction, however, requires persuasive and organizational skills
which are less likely to be found at a radio shack outlet than at a
church, school or community center with an active program for the
hearing impaired.

In August, 1981, AT&T filed a revised tariff at the FCC seeking to
reduce interstate rates for speech and hearing-impaired customers.
Normal (maximum) long distance rates of $25-day, $16-evening and a
printer combined with a personal computer would achieve similar
economies for receiving messages. GTE requires that customers spend a
minimum of $500 per month for telemail service; in addition, the company
imposes a $140 monthly subscriber charge. Although $640 may not be
feasible for an individual subscriber, it is economical for groups of
120 or more.

Who Should Promote Deafnet?

Leaders of the deaf community have an opportunity to play a pivotal
role. They could, for instance, fight fiercely to preserve the status
quo, i.e., mandatory leasing of TDDs and rate discounts. However, they
do so at a risk. Computer inquiry II did not spawn the changes now
taking place in the telecommunications industry; rather, the FCC's
recent decision has only accelerated an already well-established trend
toward competition and cost-based pricing a trend which is driven by
technological progress.

Should the deaf community devote its efforts to preserving the
status quo, it may miss important opportunities to influence the
business and policy decisions which will shape an ever-changing
technology. New computer communications hold far more promise for the
deaf than today's telephones and TDDs. However, without participation
from the deaf community, these new technologies may develop in ways that
are not as beneficial to deaf users as they might be. In short, the
deaf community may discover that while it was fighting one battle, it
lost others which were ultimately far more important.

Leaders of the deaf must be educated and quickly. They, in
turn, must reach out in three directions: to deaf telecommunications
users; to the computer-communication industry; and to state and federal
policymakers. Whether one labels this process "innovation diffusion,"
"education" or simple "marketing," its purpose is the same: to ensure
that members of the deaf community have access to a new technology that
is convenient, affordable and responsive to their communication needs.
The major conclusion we draw is that a service for the deaf must
provide basic communication services akin to the telephone system a
service that is economical, convenient and full integrated. A $5-10 per
month charge for the additional convenience of a computer-based system
is not unreasonable and would likely be paid willingly by deaf users.
If, further, less-expensive long-distance communication could be
provided by such a system, then a per-user average change could be on
the order of $15-20 per month. We estimate that a person typing on a
TTY would take 5-9 times as long as a talking person to convey an
equivalent number of words. At long-distance phone rates, this can give
a deaf user a considerable phone bill each month.

What Is An Acceptable Pricing Policy?

From the supplier point of view, startup and provision of the basic
communication service represent the largest portion of the cost. Thus,
we need to consider carefully whether the consumer can afford this service.
From a (deaf) user point of view, we need to make a distinction
between 1) economically usable services, 2) urgent services that are not
available now but would be used if available, and 3) "enhanced" services.
The enhanced class of service can be provided without much
additional cost and so has the potential of contributing primarily to
profit. The key, then, is to define enhanced services that will be
attractive to the deaf community. Representative basic services are
computer-based mail, terminal-linking, and on-line news reports.
Examples of enhanced services are games, entertainment guides, home
delivery of educational courses, and recipe libraries.

Finally, a good evolutionary strategy would be to start by offering
services that the deaf can afford, where the payment is just a substitution
within the family budget. Once subscribers begin using such
services and become familiar with the new skills and concepts, there is
an easy and likely transition to begin using the service for entertainment,
business, and other activities. This evolution easily leads to a
built-in market for the enhanced services.

The architecture or structure that we recommend is based on "tiered
charges" or cost-based pricing. That is, the user should be able to
select the services he wishes to use and pay only for those services.
This tiered-charge model is distributed and uses regional community
centers. The regional centers can be tailored to match the communication
requirements and available capital (investment potential, income)
of the local community and to provide specific services.
This model makes no restrictions on the type of hardware or software
used to implement the regional centers, but rather requires only
standardized communication procedures. They are of three types:
terminal mode, block mode, and message mode. With this structure, a
wide variety of services and methods of access can be provided.


We have discussed the commercial feasibility of DNAS in terms of
specific costs and revenues for a target population .of users. However,
it should be stressed that these costs and revenues, though they appear
to be appropriate and reasonable, are based on models and assumptions
that bear further investigation before proceeding to build the network.
The goals of the DNAS design are to develop and integrate communication
services that can be used by the deaf on a nationwide basis, meet
the special needs of the deaf, offer services comparable to those received
by the hearing, and become self-sustaining. The plan is based on
an evolutionary architecture, since there are already some pieces of the
system in use now.

The participants in the evolution are:

Users the subscribers who use DNAS for communication. They
consist of the hearing-impaired population, plus families
and acquaintances, churches and schools, and others who can
benefit by using the system.

Providers the entities that provide services to the DNAS
and to subscribers individually, both directly and through
the system. Included are equipment manufacturers,
maintenance contractors, common carriers, information
utilities and distributors, etc.

Policymakers the governmental entities whose intervention
may be required to help the deaf community to obtain
leverage and make its special needs visible.

Catalysts those who expedite the development of DNAS.
Included are government agencies, various sponsors, research
and development organizations, and volunteers.

The technological alternatives for various elements of DNAS can be
stated, with standards shown as the key. A broad range of innovative
services is promised in the market place and it should be DNAS. The
potential of personal computers as home terminals and as the medium for
implementing services is a key ingredient and their strengths and deficiencies
need to be considered.

In summary, many factors are involved in determining how viable a
commercial Deafnet would be. Costs, revenues, prices and the way in
which the network expands are primary economic determinants. But the
success of DNAS will depend ultimately on the users themselves and on
their own leadership in fostering its growth.







A Nationwide Communication System for the Hearing Impaired: Strategies Toward Commercial Implementation. Final Report.

Allan, Daniel S.; And Others
The purpose of this report is to assess the viability of developing commercial computer communications networks to provide communications services to the deaf community on a nationwide basis. Access to this network is considered for existing Baudot/Weitbrecht Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDDs) and ASCII terminals with Bell modems. The basic communications needs of the deaf and the potential market for a Deaf Network and Associated Services are defined. Examination of key concepts used to determine the commercial feasibility of DNAS, including supply and demand considerations and subsidy mechanisms, is followed by a review of current telecommunications provisions for the deaf, particularly Deafnet, a computer-based communication demonstration system. After discussing factors involved in a national commercial vendor-based framework for DNAS with special consideration of tariff design, the commercial performance of DNAS as it might be offered to a specific target population is evaluated. Preliminary commercial feasibility estimates are given for three alternative tariff structures and two supplier cost models. The study indicates that DNAS is likely to be commercially viable in the long term, although initial subsidies will be required. An appendix discussing the shift to cost-based pricing in the telephone industry, a glossary, and 26 references are also provided. (ESR)


Sponsor: National Telecommunications and Information Administration (DOC), Washington, DC.; Department of Education, Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: SRI International, Menlo Park, CA.; Shooshan & Jackson, Inc., Washington, DC.
Identifiers: Baudot Weitbrecht Telecommunications Devices Deaf; Deafnet; Electronic Mail

From ERIC ED221196

DEAFNET/DCI Related Documents  in  PDF Format
From the  Joe and Mary Slotnick  Collection at SMECC


EDWARD J. REARDON 203/965-2855
DEAF UTILIZE ELECTRONIC MAIL -- The GTE Telenet Telemail™ service introduced
to reduce costs and improve communications in the business world
has been adapted for use by the deaf. Called Deafnet, the system has
been widely praised by deaf persons who participated in a three-year
test. Alfred Marotta (seated) demonstrates how the system works as
James Emery and Mimi LaPlante (right) look on. Pointing to the information
displayed on the terminal is Mary Robinson, Executive Director,
Deaf Communications Institute Inc., Framingham, Mass., which has
launched a drive to expand the system nationwide during 1981 -- the
International Year of Disabled Persons.


(Clickable links below!)

Scan deafnet -budget comparison report.pdf 

Scan deafnet dci board thanks mary robinson for service.pdf
Scan deafnet -final sheet budget 83 82.pdf 

Scan deafnet CAT for deaf ucd wise conf may-1980.pdf 

Scan deafnet CAT for the deaf-protfor hearing4-1-80FUlL.pdf 

Scan deafnet CAT forthedeaf-p f he12-1-81FINAL YES USE.pdf 

Scan deafnet computer aided telecommunication for the deaf la.pdf 

Scan deafnet DCI extract year to 2 HEW.pdf 

Scan deafnet DCI keep in touch with deafnet -intro-.pdf 

Scan deafnet DCI Permission to reprint some DCI rnaterial for.pdf 

Scan deafnet DCI PR workshop for telecom net.pdf 

Scan deafnet dissemination project to h g nielsen sri.pdf 

Scan deafnet GTE Telenet Public Data Network.pdf 

Scan deafnet newsart john furey statesman journal OCR.pdf 

Scan deafnet photo marotta- laplante- emery- mary robinson.pd

Scan deafnet pro-budget82-83 sch A andB.pdf 

Scan deafnet proposed budget 1982-83 a.pdf 

Scan deafnet teleconf and int media parker and olqren -1980.pdf 

Scan deafnet who is dci deafnet 201-208.pdf 



Poster from the  Joe and Mary Slotnick  Collection at SMECC

Left top: Mimi Lalante
Center top: Al Marotta
Right top: Tom Rule
Left center: Doug Sager
Right center: (the lady in charge of PR for the Deafnet project with her daughter.  <Researching name>)
Bottom: Mary Robinson (Slotnick) and Mimi LaPlante



Low Cost Electronic
Mail System
THE 6502/6809 JOURNAL
Small businessmen and com-
puter hobbyists unable to af-
ford expensive electronic mail
accounts, can now enjoy this
service by joining DCI. DEAF-
NET. Although primarily a
nationwide electronic mail
system for the deaf, DCI.
DEAFNET now offers their
service at considerably lower
cost than other electronic mail
According to DCI. DEAF-
NET business manager Mary
Robinson, anyone wishing to
connect to the system pays a
small monthly fee and a
straight connect charge.
DCI. DEAFNET is offered
by the Deaf Communications
Institute. For more informa-
tion contact Ms. Robinson at
95 Bethany Rd., Framingham,
MA 01701, (617) 875-3617 .


We  found a rough OCR of  this on the  Digital Library of India
Cleaned it  up as there were some errors in the OCR.  -ES

Office of Information and Resources for the Handicapped   -  Washington, D.C. 20202 
The Deaf Net Catches New Technology
July/August 1982  N umber 4
(ISSN 0565-2804)
Department of Education - Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
We  found a rough OCR of  this on the  Digital Library of India
Cleaned it  up as there were some errors in the OCR.  -ES

If someone asked you how many times a day you use the telephone, what would you say? Five times, twenty times, over thirty? Most people use the telephone so frequently they couldn't come up with an accurate figure. We take for granted the unlimited supply of information and services the telephone provides, and it's hard to imagine what life would be like without it.

Yet an estimated 800,000 seriously hearing impaired Americans do not enjoy this great convenience. The result has been an ever-widening Information and communication gap between the deaf and the general public. The potential remedy for this inequity lies in the marked technological advances in the communications Industry.-

The first breakthrough came In 1964,.when Robert Weltbrecht, a deaf engineer, developed an acoustic coupler that would allow existing teletypewriters (TTYs) to transmit and receive messages over standard consumer telephone lines. Although TTYs had been In use for some time by news services using special telecommunications networks, they had never been able to transfer messages over the regular telephone network. Standard telephone lines and switching equipment are designed to accept signals covering a narrow (voice) frequency band, and cannot handle the frequencies generated by TTY transmission. Weitbrecht's device took these Incompatible signals and changed them Into frequencies that the phone system could handle without destroying the Integrity of the Information they contained.

It was no accident that Weltbrecht began his work around the same time that a ready and Inexpensive surplus of TTYs became available. These devices had been rendered obsolete by the telecommunications industry, which had developed more sophisticated equipment, utilizing a faster, more versatile eight-level code, as opposed to the older five-level system. Seeing a way for the deaf population to cash In on the availability of the obsolete devices, Weltbrecht developed his coupler. For the first time In history, deaf individuals with an average Income could afford a device that would provide long-distance communication links with others owning similar equipment.

Unfortunately, the estimated 40,000 older TTYs now in the hands of deaf people are Incompatible with the literally millions of new TTYs and computer terminals In use today. This effectively bars the deaf population from taking advantage of a proliferation of new personal computers, satellite and other transmission systems and computerized data bases. But hope Is on the horizon here too.

The Birth of Deaf Net

One outgrowth of booming computer technology with powerful potential benefit for the hearing impaired is an integration of selected communication services for use by the deaf community on a nationwide basis.

The advent of "electronic mall," which Involves a central computing facility that stores messages and other data for retrieval later. This eliminates the need for a person to be "available" to receive messages. It also allows the user access, through a home computer, to a growing number of consumer and professional data bases offering electronic mall and similar services.

In 1978, the Department of Education funded two projects to demonstrate the feasibility of modifying electronic mall for use by deaf Individuals. Although limited in outreach, both projects proved extremely popular with deaf users and convincingly demonstrated that electronic mail systems can be made accessible to deaf persons at reasonable cost using conventional hardware.

One of the projects used two computers, located at Gallaudet College In Washington, D.C., and SRI International (the project contractor) In Menlo Park, California. The two systems not only provided electronic mall services for persons in the test areas, but were also Interconnected, allowing a deaf person In the Washington area, for example, to send messages to someone residing In California. These computers were also modified to allow a person using a five-level TTY to communicate with an individual using a modern eight-level computer terminal, thus overcoming one of the greatest barriers to a nationwide communication and Information service for the deaf.

Aside from the technical considerations which provided compatibility, operating Instructions and user commands to the computer were made as simple as possible to compensate for the language and concept problems experienced by . some deaf users. For example, If an Individual typed only part of a command, the computer executed the command anyway. But if the user appeared to be having trouble, the computer referred them to the "Help Service" which explained the proper use of the system. If an ambiguous, command was typed into the computer. It responded by printing out a list of alternative' commands with

6 n, and proposes to consolidate another

If, for example, two persons agree to hold a meeting at a given time, they can communicate with each other by sending messages to one another's mailboxes. Each person scans his mailbox, retrieves the message, and then responds. This technique of sending and scanning for messages is quite successful, and provides links between two or more participants.

As with persons In the SRI project, this group of Deaf Netters praised the system. "For the first time, a new communication technology, electronic mall, promises to mean as much or perhaps more to the deaf than to the hearing," says Mary Robinson, executive director of DCI.

"I have found the electronic mall system provided by DCI through telemail to be Invaluable both in my present continuing education and In my future professional plans," says John Boyer, a deaf-blind college student in Wisconsin.

Another Deaf Net user stated,".. it's a real blast being able to make up a message and send it to one, or to as many as you wish ,.. knowing that you will not be interrupting or bothering anyone other than a cat trying to sleep on top of the terminal."

In short, Deaf Net works.

In discussing the potential for establishing a nationwide Deaf Net, SRI said, "We have found that the deaf community is receptive to the new concepts and communications services ... However, the necessary requirements for these concepts to be generally accepted and useful are adequate training, appropriate documentation, and a stable system. While these attributes are Important In any service delivery to consumers, they are doubly Important to the deaf community.

"... Continued research will build on the existing
foundation, Improving the demonstration system so
that It evolves toward the goal of a nationwide services
network for the deaf."













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