Deaf Users Sound Off on Sidekick Outage

by Ina Fried

“As the outage went on, I became concerned about how my deaf teenage son would be able to communicate in an emergency,” Jamie Berke, an guide based in the Washington metro area, said in an e-mail.

“I know he is not the only one,” said Berke, who is also deaf. “The outage probably meant that thousands of deaf children who depend on their Sidekicks to communicate with parents were unable to communicate in the event of an emergency. Plus, I myself, would have been unable to communicate in an emergency.”

The Sidekick became an early favorite in deaf circles because of its good keyboard, then-state-of-the-art instant-messaging abilities, and ability to connect to relay services. T-Mobile improved things further by adding a data-only option so that deaf users weren’t paying for voice minutes they didn’t use.

Because the Sidekick didn’t evolve as fast as other smartphones, many users–deaf and hearing alike–moved to the BlackBerry and other devices. And after their recent experiences, many of the remaining Sidekick users in the deaf community have said they are considering jumping ship, once their T-Mobile contracts end.

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