Harry Lang at the UW (AccessComputing News Feb 2009)

Richard Ladner, AccessComputing Co-PI and Co-Director

In the fall of 2008, Professor Harry Lang from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology delivered a lecture titled "The Genius of Community: Technology as Friend and Foe in the Lives of Deaf People" to an audience of 150 people at the UW. In his lecture, Lang traced the invention of the teletypewriter (TTY) to a small group of determined deaf people who wanted to access the telephone in the 1960s. One of the deaf inventors of the TTY was engineer and physicist Robert Weitbrecht, who developed the acoustic modem that translated electronic signals to sound and vice versa. This acoustic modem was a precursor to modems that connect computers over phone lines. Lang stressed the effort that has been made to ensure TTYs are available, free of charge, to all people who are deaf in the U.S. For further information about the history of TTYs in the U.S., check out Lang's book A Phone of Our Own.

Professor Lang shared many stories of the achievements of scientists who are deaf, including Thomas Edison. To learn more about notable scientists and thinkers who are deaf, read Lang's book Deaf People in the Arts and Sciences, co-written with his wife Bonnie Meath-Lang.

A captioned version of Lang's lecture can be viewed at www.tinyurl.com/c36yke.