Deafblind Telecommunications

Case Studies / Technology

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Person One

• Computer access - Braille
• TTY access - Braille
• Mobile phone access - Braille

Person Two

• Computer Access
• screen reader

Person Three

• Mobile phone access
• large fonts

Person Four

• Computer access
• screen reader
• Mobile phone access
• computer

Person Five

• Phone access
• volume control

Person Six

• TTY access
• Large Visual Display unit

Person Seven

• Phone access
• University



Case Studies

Case Study 3 - John

John is deafblind and has Ushers Syndrome (Type1). Profoundly deaf since birth, he developed Retinitis Pigmentosa, (RP) or tunnel vision as he got older. John has a tiny amount of remaining functional vision but relies on tactile communication in Auslan and uses a cane to assist him when he travels.   .

John learnt braille when he was first losing his sight and prefers to type using a braille keyboard.  When he first went to ablelink to learn how to use a computer, he was unable to touch type and his functional vision was not enough to see the keys.  It was not practical to attach a braille keyboard to a computer so he first had to learn to touch type.  He did this using a set of braille instructions.

John has a Braille TTY at home for making phonecalls.  He doesn’t the relay service via computer.  John has had problems booking a taxi via the relay service using his braille display as his request arrives on a special TTY and not through the regular booking.  However, the taxi service has been good at following up on these issues.

John does not have a mobile phone and cannot use SMS.  This makes him feel “out of the loop” with his deaf friends.  He mainly uses email for communication and belongs to many email lists of deafblind groups around the world.  Now he uses Facebook to connect with a wider circle of friends. 

John started learning Windows, by relying on a braille display to read the screen and using a qwerty keyboard to input commands.   His progress was extremely slow because of the visual nature of Windows and the complicated braille representation.  John started to make progress when he was able to change the display colours on the monitor (black background with yellow text) and change the size and colour of the mouse pointer.  He was able to  recognize menus and commands using a hand held magnifier.  Once he is in his email or in the internet he reads the text using a refreshable braille display.   The braille display works by displaying the text that is spoken by Jaws screen reader, although John turns the speech off.   

John also uses some free software (called Fatbits) to magnify the information on the screen that he is unable to magnify within Windows settings.  It works the same as Microsoft’s docked Magnifier . 

John continues to visit ablelink to improve his computer skills and knowledge.  When he has problems at home, he comes to ablelink to learn how to solve them and fix them himself. 

John has a personal computer at home with a refreshable braille display.  He has also setup home networking, including a wireless connection for his internet.  This was quite a challenge to add broadband to his existing TTY and Fax connection.   John also has a Pacmate – a braille notetaker without a screen.  This has been very challenging to learn but he prefers to check Facebook on his Pacmate, using his wireless connection. 

He uses email, the Internet, deafblind discussion groups and  reads newsletters, using his Braille display via screen reader software.  His most enjoyable pastime on the computer is making simple animations.   John has MS Office 2000 on his computer and is able to use word documents, calendar, email and the Internet. He likes Windows 98se and Windows Vista as they are easier to access. He finds Windows 7 difficult because it confuses him.

His biggest problems with computers is when there are photos and videos on email attachments or the Internet – he is not able to access them because there is no text reference to explain what they are.  John also has problems checking his beloved Carlton football scores on the AFL site as they keep changing it and adding advertising or banners that interfere with his braille display.

Accessing information and being able to communicate with other people gives enables John to be more independent and feel more involved with his family, friends and other people.

Telecommuncations – Fixed Line -  Braille TTY.


Krown TTY with Braille Display.



This TTY is provided by Telstra as the handset for a fixed line and is provided under the Disability Equipment Program. 


Using the QWERTY keyboard on the phone. 
All commands are on the Krown TTY. 
It is possible to type in Braille input using Braille Mode on the TTY.


Refreshable Braille output of the display in Grade 0 only.  Most Braille devices can output Grade 2 braille which is contracted and quicker to read.

A high degree of Braille expertise is required to read the Braille as the speed it is typed.


Flashing light and Vibrating alert enabling incoming calls.


Not able to change the LCD Visual display colours


This provides backup when internet is down and client uses it about 5 times a week. 

Relay Service

Can make phone calls to hearing people via the National Relay Service




PC Computer and Laptop


Jaws screen reader software and Braille Voyager Display


Touch type on computer or laptop keyboard


Braille via speech output which is turned to silent.


Email, Internet and Facebook


Uses Broadband with ethernet and wireless connectivity.  I set it all up myself.


Telecommunications -  Pacmate

Product Name

Pacmate Notetaker







Windows Pocket Email, Internet and Word.
(Loves to check Mobile Facebook on Pacmate




This is a very expensive notetaker.


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