The U.S. Library of Congress has implemented an agency-wide videophone communication system. Sorenson Communications has licensed 16 of its VP-200 videophones and is providing training and ongoing support free of charge to the Library of Congress, one of the first federal agencies to set up a videophone network agency-wide for the benefit of staff members who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

The VP-200 videophones and Sorenson Video Relay Service (SVRS) will enable deaf and hard-of-hearing Library of Congress staff members to conduct calls with hearing individuals via a high-speed Internet connection, television screen, and a qualified ASL interpreter. Using SVRS, deaf callers connect to a nationwide network of ASL interpreters. Callers see an interpreter on their TV screen and sign a message to the interpreter, who then contacts the hearing recipient on a standard phone line and relays the conversation between the two parties. SVRS is revolutionizing communication for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals as it enables them to communicate in their native language, which relies heavily on body language, facial expressions, and quick hand movements.

"This technology greatly improves the ability of our deaf colleagues to conduct their daily business and it underscores our commitment to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act," said Doug Meick, program manager for the library's Assistive Technology Demonstration Center. "We hope other federal agencies will see our partnership with private industry and follow our example."

The Library of Congress developed a secure internal network to link the Sorenson Communications videophones. The network serves all 20 deaf staff members who work in a variety of positions throughout the library. The Library of Congress, the research arm of the U.S. Congress, is the world's largest library and offers 30 million books and 134 million catalogued items representing more than 450 languages.

"We are very pleased that the Library of Congress has taken these steps to provide Video Relay Service and video phones for their deaf and hard-of-hearing staff," said Pat Nola, president and CEO of Sorenson Communications. "The Library of Congress is leading the way for other federal agencies to offer the most effective communication solution available to their deaf and hard-of-hearing employees."