Initiative to make shelters more accessible to survivors who are Deaf and hard of hearing

ICADV and Julian Center have joined forces on an accessibility initiative with the aim of making their facility accessible for survivors who are Deaf and hard of hearing.

Making routine calls to arrange doctor appointments, meetings with social service providers, ordering pizza, connecting with colleagues, family and friends is a very commonplace occurrence on a daily basis for many people all over the world with a few clicks on a smartphone or a standard phone.

Using a smartphone or standard phone to make phone calls presents a challenge for Deaf and hard of hearing people who cannot hear on the phone. It poses a significant barrier for survivors with hearing loss who move into a shelter.

Advancements in technologies enable people with disabilities and deaf/hard of hearing people to live independent lives.  This includes assistive devices to aid in communication.  For those who use American Sign Language (ASL) as their preferred communication mode, there is a way that enables them to make and receive calls easily and quickly.  It is called VideoPhone (VP).

A VideoPhone is a technology platform that allows Deaf and hard of hearing people to place and receive calls through either a smartphone or a standalone VP unit in which a visual box appears on the screen showing an ASL interpreter to facilitate communication between the Deaf caller and any other party.  A standalone VP unit consists of a 20-inch TV screen, modem, and a webcam that require an Internet connection.  There is no special number.  All VP numbers are assigned a regular 10-digit phone number as with any place of business in the United States.  All of the communication equipment is made available free of charge to an approved organization, agency, and/or business.

With support from ICADV, the Julian Center is the first-ever DV agency in Indiana to have a VP unit recently installed at its shelter facility.  Their VP station is especially formatted that allows for anonymous call-outs and call-ins so people cannot identify the location of the Deaf person at the shelter.  It is a win-win situation for everyone.  Kudos to Julian Center staff for their commitment in making this possible for Deaf and hard of hearing survivors!

For those who are interested in installing a VP station at your shelter facility, please contact Holly Elkins at 


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