Communication Aids9th May 2015

Pedius: A Life-Changing Phone App for the Deaf

Making direct 1:1 phone calls available for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people

by Nicole Campbell, Pedius

Communication is an essential, inescapable part of human life, and being restricted in this aspect is not a mere inconvenience anymore. Being unable to get ahold of a doctor or family member right away can have many repercussions. A deaf man named Gabriele was involved in a car accident one night and left stranded for hours after the other driver discovered he was deaf and defenceless. As he couldn’t call for help, this man’s only option was to wait and hope that someone would come to his rescue.

Sadly, Gabriele’s story is not that far out of the ordinary. With over 70 million people worldwide affected by severe hearing loss and unable to make standard phone calls, this issue couldn’t afford to be ignored any longer.

Lorenzo Di Ciaccio, Italian entrepreneur and founder of Pedius, believes in bettering technology for social interaction purposes. Inspired by Gabriele’s story and having recognised a great need for a calling app for the deaf, Lorenzo quit his job and put everything he had into building on this idea - eventually naming it after the famous Italian painter, Quintus Pedius, who was the first recorded deaf person in history.

Using advanced speech recognition technology, this innovative app allows deaf people to make private, real-time phone calls. Users can choose to either type or speak their message into their iPhone or Android, and are also given the option of selecting from a list of quick, generic messages. Pedius then sends the message to the contact they choose using either the user’s own voice or an automated voice through speech synthesis. Instantly, the user is able to read the written translation of the recipient’s answer. This is the first app of its kind and is unique in that it does not require a download by both communicating parties. 

Current phone relay services for the deaf require an intermediary. Having to rely on an interpreter or operator is expensive for the phone companies and government agencies that support this service, and often is not available 24/7. More importantly than this, though, is that these services strip deaf citizens of possessing full independence - a discouraging and frustrating dilemma for people with a hearing loss. Pedius’ goal is to put complete freedom back in the hands of deaf people, and give them the same peace of mind that the security of a phone offers to every other person.

The Pedius app is not just an emergency-situation option. Deaf users will find that it is useful in making everyday tasks easier where texting isn’t possible, such as calling a restaurant to make a reservation, or a plumber to fix a pipe. One user even raved that she was able to call her gynaecologist through Pedius when she was having strong contractions, and gave birth shortly afterward. As strange as it seems to consider a phone app ‘life-altering,’ reviews from deaf users have proven it to be just that. One of them stated, 

“Since yesterday evening, you've changed the life of my deaf son, Mark, who is 17. He had been cut off from phone communication which is fundamental for someone his age. I hope you realise the importance of Pedius. I guarantee you that, at least in our experience, it was one of the best Christmas gifts ever received.” 

Another one said that after making her first call with Pedius, she “cried tears of emotion and joy.” 

From its initial launch in Italy in 2013, Pedius has expanded to countries such as the U.K., Ireland, France, and the U.S., and is expected to soon become available in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The team at Pedius believes this app can eventually be a worldwide solution - as all it requires is internet and a user specific language - and foresee this becoming a single access point for deaf people. This is a more efficient alternative to having different phone relay services in every country, and would allow for simpler travel experiences for the deaf community as well. With the help of constructive feedback from customers, and being constantly faced with new challenges, the quality and accuracy of the app is continuously improving.

While Pedius does not yet have the capability of calling emergency numbers such as 999, the team hopes to meet the requirements for this so that it may be possible in the near future. Pedius plans to continue its international expansion and also make conference calling possible, as voice recognition has a difficult time with the distinction of words from multiple background sounds at the moment. 

Pedius aspires to improve the quality of life for deaf users and to make things just as easy for them as any other citizen. Phone calls are something that those with perfect hearing typically don’t stop to appreciate as they seem so unextraordinary with the progress technology has made today. However, the ability to have a private, real-time conversation with anyone at anytime is an incredible right that everyone deserves to share. The Pedius Team is proud of the positive feedback they’ve been receiving from deaf users and honoured to hear how they have impacted the lives of so many already.

As Charles Dickens once said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of others.”  Pedius conducts its business with this in mind, and hopes to continue lightening the burdens of deaf and hard of hearing people; one unmediated call at a time!

To find out more go to Pedius

Article by Nicole Campbell, Pedius

posted in Technology / Communication Aids

9th May 2015