In The News

September 24, 2021 Fairborn Center Offers Interpreters for the Hearing Impaired

“Now with sign language it’s very easy to communicate and it’s very quick and there’s much more equal access; it’s amazing,” Anna Cruz said through a translator.

Anna also says she loves to be able to sign in her natural language and at her own speed.

April 29, 2020 Communication is the Foundation of Human Connection

Wavello allows a Deaf person, a hearing person, and an interpreter to all see each other on a Sorenson video relay call. You might ask why that’s important. Well, the American Sign Language (ASL) community also reads the emotion and tone of a conversation in facial expressions, gestures, and body language. So with Wavello, the Deaf are able to see the conversation as well.

ABC4 Good Things Utah, April 29, 2020. Posted with permission.

October 3, 2016 Ron Burdett, ’70, Honored at Sorenson Naming Ceremony

On September 29, 2016, Gallaudet hosted an event in honor of Ron Burdett, ’70, as a room in the Sorenson Language and Communication Center (SLCC) was named after him – the Ron Burdett, ’70, Seminar Room, which is located on the second floor of the building. The announcement was made at a ceremony that took place in the SLCC atrium.

Burdett has worked at Sorenson Communications for a number of years and the company made a donation to Gallaudet in honor of Ron’s years of service.

At the ceremony, Burdett was recognized for his work as a professor and dean of Deaf Studies and Special Services at Ohlone College as well as for his service as president of the California Association for Post-Education of the Disabled (CAPED), which oversaw 107 community colleges, eight California state universities and three universities of California

Photos by Zhee Chatmon: Ron Burdett, ’70,
poses next to his honorary plaque.

Burdett and his wife, Joyanne, ’70,
at the naming ceremony.

Burdett unveils his honorary title above the
entryway to the room named after him, with
David Reekers, G-’06 and student Zoe
Rodriguez, who led the ceremony,
watching him.

President Cordano gives a speech at the
naming ceremony.

President Roberta J. Cordano gave opening remarks, honoring Burdett’s work as an alumnus of the University.

“I am so impressed at the turnout here and everything that you had invested in Sorenson,” said Cordano. “You are the face of Sorenson, and you obviously have given a lot to the deaf community. It means a great deal that a room in this building is being named after you.”

After retiring from Ohlone in May 2004, Burdett served as director of the Southern Utah Deaf and Hard of Hearing Programs under the state Division of Services to the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing. In 2006, Burdett joined Sorenson Communications as vice president of Community Relations. Having served Sorenson for nearly 11 years, Burdett’s responsibilities include building and maintaining positive relationships with people and key organizations within the deaf community, as well as working extensively with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure that Video Relay Services (VRS) are functionally equivalent to the communication technologies hearing people use and that VRS continues to benefit the deaf community.

Burdett often ran into heavy questioning from the FCC, asking why services for the deaf were more expensive compared to services for those with other disabilities.

“I had to emphasize that deaf people require ongoing service, with dedicated interpreters who are available to interpret at any time,” said Burdett. “I pointed out that, for example, wheelchair ramps or braille signs were a one-time expenditure, with occasional repairs or maintenance, but that deaf people required continuous access. Using that example with the FCC helped them to understand the necessity of VRS services.”

As a member of Sorenson Communications’ executive management team, Burdett provides a critical deaf perspective, a key component in Sorenson’s early and ongoing success as a market leader. Ron introduced Sorenson Video Relay Service® (SVRS®) to the deaf community, a culture he already understood and cherished, explaining how VRS technology worked for more than a decade.

Burdett traveled all over the United States to meet with deaf communities. On a pegboard of an U.S. map, he has kept track of where he has traveled for Sorenson by putting pins on cities he has visited.

“It is going to be difficult not working for Sorenson anymore when I retire at the end of this year,” said Burdett, adding that he plans to continue working for Sorenson on a part-time, contracted basis. “I just can’t keep away,” said Burdett, laughingly.

Burdett recognizes Gallaudet as a focal starting point of his leadership and success.

“Like so many students before and after me, Gallaudet offered me many opportunities to learn, lead and pursue my goals,” said Burdett. “Being immersed in the academic environment prepared me for my career, as well as extracurricular activities, where I met a diverse contingent of people. I didn’t know it then, but this really prepared me for my future community relations work at Sorenson Communications, through which I have met thousands of deaf people.”

“With his many accomplishments as an educator and administrator, to his years of outreach with Sorenson, Ron is an inspiration to us all,” said Cordano. “Ron embodies advocacy, equality, and inclusion and is a role model for our emerging deaf and hard of hearing leaders. Advancement for the deaf community hinges upon the dedicated efforts of many people like Ron. I wish him many years of health and happiness.”

At the event, Martin Price, ’90 and a colleague of Burdett, also recognized the inspiration that Burdett gave the community. “I saw how kids at schools you visited were enthralled with your humor and wisdom,” said Price. “You took customer concerns seriously and were persistent in showing your love to everyone.”

The ceremony was attended by Burdett’s friends and family members, who surprised him at the event. Former presidents Dr. I. King Jordan and Dr. Robert R. Davila were also in attendance.

Burdett is married to Joyanne Burdett, ’70, and lives in the St. George area of southern Utah.

By Andrew Greenman, ’10
Published on October 3, 2016
Reprinted with permission.

October 27, 2015 MedStar Washington Hospital Center sets up new videophone booth for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing patients

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.

Source: MedStar Washington Hospital Center

Reprinted with permission.

March 28, 2015 New video phones allow deaf and hearing impaired travelers to make calls at Syracuse’s airport

Flight delays or cancellations can happen to anyone. For most people, learning about a cancelled flight at the airport means a quick phone call to the airline to reschedule- but if you are deaf or hard of hearing, that isn’t always possible. Syracuse’s airport now has an option for hearing impaired travelers. Two video phones have been installed at the airport by Sorenson Communications.

The video phones are free for those who are deaf and hard of hearing. Through live video, an interpreter sees their sign language and then signs back what the person they are calling is saying.

Sorensen district manager Jim Tourangeau demonstrated it to CNYCentral on Friday afternoon with help from an interpreter.

“We are very visual and we communicate through sign language and this video phone helps us communicate between deaf and hearing people,” said Tourangeau using sign language.

Aurora of Central New York, who helps people with vision and hearing disabilities, and the Disability Rights Clinic at the Syracuse University College of Law worked with the airport and Sorensen to bring the phones to Syracuse. SU law professor Michael Schwartz says the phones will be more efficient for the hearing impaired and raise awareness of visual communication.

“Someone can call, make a phone call immediately and not have to wait or ask somebody for help or use other devices. This is state of the art,” said Schwartz using sign language.

The phones are intended to make the airport more accessible and are meant only for the use of those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The Syracuse airport will have two video phones, one on either side of the TSA security checkpoint.