One of the new features that we recently added to the GARI database was whether a phone has a front mounted camera. This simple feature may seem a novelty to some, but for many users with hearing loss it can make the world of difference - allowing them to carry out a face-to-face sign language conversation using a video call or conferencing function.
Video calling features are becoming more and more popular on modern smartphones and for deaf users, choosing mobile phones with a camera on the same side as their phone’s display allows them to visually converse in real time over the mobile phone network.
In a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, Andrew Wiltshire, an employment services manager who is also fourth-generation deaf, said that he found using video messaging on his iPhone gave him more opportunities to communicate than ever before.
“In the past we've had to really rely on other people to do things for us. We might feel quite dependent,” Mr Wiltshire said. “With the changes in technology, it's probably broken down the last barrier. Finally, with deaf people, we can become mobile. We can go around and still communicate.”
“It means I'm not disadvantaged or behind. I'm with everyone else … my hearing mates, we're all on an equal footing. I feel more confident and more able to do things," Mr. Wiltshire said.
A front facing camera can also be of great benefit to people who have trouble holding a phone to their ear. Rather than having to hold and use their phone in a conventional way, users can simply place their phone on a table or in a mount and carry out a video call hands-free.
It’s important to remember that even when you choose a phone with the right video capabilities, two-way video conferencing will depend heavily on the mobile networks speed and users should attempt to test the phone model themselves to determine whether it meets their needs.