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New Device Opens Theater To Deaf

PCS Helps Hearing-Impaired, Avoids Disrupting Others
10/2/03 - NBC 5, Dallas, TX

There are currently 28 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing. It's harder for them to enjoy the theater, but a new gadget will help.

The personal captioning device is a wireless handheld unit that captions what's happening on stage in real time. The invention has opened a whole world of enjoyment to hearing-impaired people like Jean Post.

"Before, when I would come, my friends would tell me the big things that were happening," Post said.

However, Post can now keep track of the action without the help of her friends.

"I think it's absolutely fantastic. The first time I used it, I just was so excited that I could get so much more out of a play than I ever did," Post said. "And the one thing that meant so much to me was I could get the lyrics of the music."

The device is synchronized to the lighting and scene changes, so it remains accurate even if the actors pause or go long.

The personal captioning system is the brainchild of Richard Fitzgerald. Twenty years ago, he won a Tony award for developing the infrared listening system now used throughout the world.

The PCS could become just as popular.

"Most of the times in the theater, even people who wear headsets, it gets very loud and the non-impaired patrons, the hearing patrons, are sometimes annoyed. But the PCS works silently and even filters the light so only the user can see it," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald delights in Post's first reaction to the PCS. "She was in tears when she first used it, literally in tears."

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