The grave danger to the deaf from 'kosher' cellphones

‘Kosher’ phone merges technology, faith describes an alarming development, which may adversely influence the quality of life of deaf persons in certain communities.

Basically, some communities, which practice religion in a strict way (such as some of the Haredi Jews and some Moslem communities), are bothered by the technology of cellphones, which make it easier for young people to form “improper” relationships.

Therefore, those communities would like to have cellphones, which allow only voice conversations – no text messages, no video, no Internet, no camera. Such cellphones have been developed.

However, there is a problem:

Text messages are an essential function of a cellphone, which makes it accessible to deaf persons. Thanks to this function, deaf persons have at last gained the ability to directly contact anyone via phone, without needing special help from sympathetic hearing persons or from relay services. This function is useful only as long as most, or all, cellphones used by the deaf person’s associates have text messaging capability.

Therefore, a community, which bans text messaging, in effect bans an accessibility provision needed by its deaf members.

Even if the religious leaders allow the deaf alone to have cellphones with text message capability, this feature would be useless if the other members of their community are not allowed to use it.

Therefore, a consequence of introduction of kosher cellphones in communities is the re-marginalization of the deaf in those communities. Those deaf persons would again be cut off from their hearing family members, friends and co-workers.

Visualize a community, which has ordinance prohibiting the use of TTYs.

I think that cellphones without text messaging capability should be as illegal as cellphones without ability to dial to the police, emergency medical service (such as Magen David Adom, Red Cross or Red Crescent) or firefighters.

Author: Omer Zak

I am deaf since birth. I played with big computers which eat punched cards and spew out printouts since age 12. Ever since they became available, I work and play with desktop size computers which eat keyboard keypresses and spew out display pixels. Among other things, I developed software which helped the deaf in Israel use the telephone network, by means of home computers equipped with modems. Several years later, I developed Hebrew localizations for some cellular phones, which helped the deaf in Israel utilize the cellular phone networks. I am interested in entrepreneurship, Science Fiction and making the world more accessible to people with disabilities.

One thought on “The grave danger to the deaf from 'kosher' cellphones”

  1. Since when are religious fanatics considerate of disabled people? If you are deaf, got a bad leg, polio or even a mentally ill relative you are already a second or third-rate member of the community. this dictates what work you can do, how good a “shidukh” you can get, what kind of Ktuba the rabinate will draw for you and even if you can be a notary witness. However I'd find it hard to believe that a deaf religious person that needs an SMS-enabled phone will not go out and get one, or that his rabbi will bar him from doing so. Those phones with the special firmware exist as an option to that community, and not as a must.

    I'm proud to be an atheist and a free person, I encourage any individual that is wrongly discriminated against in his own group (ethnic or cultural) to make the sensible move and distance himself from the bigots and find the group that accepts him as an equal.



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