Utah Deaf Videoconferencing Model: Providing Vocational Services Via Technology

By Johnson, Lynnette | The Journal of Rehabilitation, October-December 2004 | Go to article overview

Utah Deaf Videoconferencing Model: Providing Vocational Services Via Technology


Johnson, Lynnette, The Journal of Rehabilitation


Rural areas often face limited services when working with clients who are Deaf and hard of hearing. Some of these limitations may include a lack of interpreters, lack of social resources, and a lack of cultural, language, and legal understanding on the part of the service provider. These limitations are addressed and possible answers are explored through the use of the Utah Deaf Videoconferencing Model.

Through the use of modern videoconferencing technology, Utah has begun to find some answers that may prove helpful to the client, practioner, educator, rehabilitation counselor, administrator, and policy maker, when approaching and dealing with clients who are Deaf. The importance of using technology in this arena is captured in this statement from The U.S. Department of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, "For people without disabilities, technology makes things convenient, whereas for people with disabilities, it makes things possible" (Heumann, 2000).

Literature Review

There has been much written about the use of technology to enhance services to clients in the general or "hearing" population. Professionals in business, education, vocational rehabilitation, medicine, government, defense, and social work to name a few have explored and used technology to serve remote or distance needs (e.g., Augustine, et. al. 1998; Cain, et. al., 200l; Frase-Blunt, 1998; Lee, et. al. 2000; Patterson, 2000). Use of technology in these environments may range from simple e-mail exchanges, internet support groups in rehabilitation, and desk top camera interactions to more complicated uses such as the space program sending and receiving messages and images outside of our earth's atmosphere (e.g., see Patterson, 2000; South Carolina Department of Mental Health, 2002).

Some of the uses of distance technology that the Utah Model takes advantage of include: tele health, tele medicine, and tele education. Tele medicine is described as "the use of electronic communications and information technology or support clinical care at a distance" (Tellda, 2002). Tele health is, "the use of telecommunications and information technology to provide access to health assessment, diagnosis, intervention, consultation, education and information across distance (Tellda, 2002). Mental health counseling falls under the tele health umbrella of care (Lamarche, 2002). Petracchi defines defines distance education as "all types of formal instruction conducted when teachers and students are located a geographic distance from one another" (2000).

Studies of technology being used by the Deaf population seem to have followed the patterns of the general or "hearing" population (e.g., see, Harkins, 2002; South Carolina Department of Mental Health, 2002). The Deaf population has used some unique applications in technology that are not used by the hearing population. These include technology such as video relay phone service (VRS), a pilot program in Minnesota using video remote interpreters to facilitate State Department of Workforce Services interactions with Deaf clients, and distance education including specialized online instruction for students who are Deaf (e.g., Harkins, 2002; Latz, et. al., 2002; Mallory & Rizzo, 2002, Rabelo & Carnahan, 2002).

Another unique application of videoconferencing technology in the field of deafness is in South Carolina. Deaf telepsychiatry has been in existence since approximately 1994 in South Carolina. The program was innovated as the one sign language proficient psychiatrist in the state became confined to her home due to a pregnancy. She was unable to continue to drive long miles across the rural parts of the state to provide psychiatry services to the identified 300 clients who are Deaf and mentally ill. The state established a videoconferencing network from the psychiatrist's home to several sites in the state and she continued her practice from her home. The application has been so successful in South Carolina that the psychiatrist "now reports seeing three times the previous number of clients in only sixty percent of the time. …

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