Tuesday, 31 January 2012 03:43

Australian Communication Exchange Recognised by Optus for Outstanding Community Work

By Karen Bayley

Australian Communication Exchange (ACE) is the proud recipient of a $9,000 grant from Optus, as part of the 2011 Optus Regional Community Grants Program.

ACE is Australia's only national organisation providing communication access solutions to Deaf, hearing and speech impaired Australians. The Optus funding will install Darwin's first Video Relay Service (VRS) kiosk in March 2012, a device which allows people who are Deaf and use Auslan sign language to make phone calls through video.

The kiosks provide a video link between the caller and an Auslan interpreter who then sends a voice link on to the hearing person. It is anticipated that this real-time video will be a popular community service as the majority of Deaf Australians, especially the older generation, use sign language as their first language and they are unable to use the regular telephone not being to either hear or speak or both.

Zoe Boyd, Director of Strategy and Planning at ACE, said 'The 2011 Optus Regional Community Grants funding will allow us to extend the reach of our services within the Northern Territory's Deaf community. With our grant going towards funding the first video kiosk for those who are Deaf in Darwin, Optus is helping us to enrich the lives of a community who is all too often marginalised and isolated.'

Tim Carmichael, General Manager of Optus Country said, 'Optus understands the importance of recognising potential within regional communities and we are proud of our investment in community initiatives that make a difference across regional Australia.

'The Australian Communication Exchange was a standout entry in this year's program. ACE makes a significant contribution to communities like Darwin and we at Optus want to help groups like this continue to make a difference.'

ACE is a national not-for-profit community organisation. ACE was established to facilitate equity of access to the telecommunications network for people who are Deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment.

Background information when reporting about Deaf and hearing impaired Australians

There is a difference between capital 'D' Deaf Australians and deaf or hearing impaired. Australians who use Auslan sign language as their first and preferred language and identify themselves as belonging to the Deaf community, are referred to as Deaf. Usually, this group have been deaf since birth or early childhood, and were taught to sign at an early age. Auslan is recognised as a community language other than English, so for Deaf Australians, learning English is akin to learning a second language. Hearing impaired or hard of hearing people have either lost their hearing later in life or as children but followed an auditory-oral approach. The children develop English speaking and listening skills with their residual hearing and do not usually use Auslan.

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