Text messaging is something that just about everyone is doing these days. I have spoken with many friends who admit that texting has become their primary means of communicating with their kids when they are out with friends. I can’t estimate how many times I have been sitting in my house and watched at least two family members sitting texting on their phone. It’s more commonplace than out of place these days.
As easy as texting is there is an aspect of it that I was exposed to this past weekend that I had not thought about. There is a group of folks who find text messaging has become a very important part of their abiity to interact with the world. My stepson had a friend from school stay overnight at our house this weekend. He’s a nice kid and it went without episode, something we can’t always say.
Sunday morning when it was getting close to the time when "Bob" (I won’t give his name to respect privacy) would need to go home I asked him if he had called his parents to ask when they wanted to pick him up. Without hesitation Bob said he couldn’t call his parents as they are deaf and can’t hear him on the phone. Bob has grown up with deaf parents so this was normal to him but I admit I was a bit taken aback with his matter-of-factness with the explanation. I was about to ask him how he gets in touch with them when he said he always texts them. Talk about a lightbulb going off in my head as I realized text messaging was the perfect form of instant communication for the deaf.
Bob texted his Mom standing in front of me and was instantly told she’d be right over to pick him up. When she arrived I walked him out to introduce myself and had an interesting conversation with her about text messaging for the deaf. She told me they gave all of their three kids cell phones as soon as they could read and write. They carefully taught them how to use them properly and that it is a boon for them to communicate with the kids. They even text them when they are in their room when they need to talk to them. I laughed at this as my wife has been doing that for years rather than yelling up the stairs.
Bob’s mom said that the deaf community embraced text messaging early in the life of the technology and that many have been using texting for as long as it has been possible. She laughed as she told me that their kids were the first to get cell phones so young, long before it was the rage. Now it is the norm and her kids are not "special" to be texting on the phone all the time. Bob admitted that it was quite some time after getting his first cell phone at age 6 that he realized you could make phone calls with it. It was a great conversation and a wonderful example of a simple mobile technology that is having such a positive impact on a group of people who find it helps them participate better in everyday life. Bob’s mom couldn’t state emphatically enough how much it has improved their quality of life, as adults and especially as parents. Family members and close friends realize that texting is the equivalent of phone calls for the hearing and usually respond immediately when they receive a text from them.
I was impressed enough that I did some research on text messaging by the deaf community and was fascinated by some things I discovered. One was a relatively new service called Text 4 Deaf that makes it simple to manage text messaging from any computer. The service is free but has a premium paid version that provides additional benefits to the managment of text messages. It provides group messaging too.
Email has also played a big role for the deaf community but it’s the instant nature of texting that provides the greatest benefit. It is much easier to hold an ongoing remote conversation via texting and it’s only logical that it has been adopted by the deaf community as a big form of communication. You learn something new every day and this was a great thing for me to learn.