Deaftel Makes Phone Conversations a Reality for the Deaf

Developer Kunal Batra

The simple task of talking on your phone is not something we think of as challenging, but for the deaf it’s something they struggle with every day. Traditionally, for the deaf and hard of hearing, a relay operator paired with hardware is the only option to translate speech-to-text on phone conversations.

Developer Kunal Batra could not find any mobile solution for this problem so in true DOer fashion, he built it. Deaftel allows the deaf to communicate on a mobile device without the use of a relay operator or extra hardware.

From Developer Contest Hack to Live Product

Kunal was ready to build this missing link in the deaf community and found a little extra motivation with a timely Twilio Developer Contest. The app converts spoken voice into text for the deaf user. To respond, the app converts typed text back into voice that is played for the hearing user. This text-to-speech conversion is powered by Twilio SMS. Deaftel is particularly valuable for hearing users on a landline calling someone in the deaf community, where a two-sided SMS conversation isn’t possible. Check out the app in action:

After nabbing runner up in the developer contest, Batra set Deaftel aside to get back to his main startup. It wasn’t soon after that Batra started receiving a large inbound of requests from the deaf community to use Deaftel. In November 2011, Batra received a compelling email from a deaf individual whose doctor refused to use a relay service for phone conversations, requesting Deaftel as the solution. Batra decided to stop working on his startup to focus on Deaftel full time.

Building an App To Make a Difference

By allowing users to make and receive phone calls from anyone without having a relay operator present, Batra has been able to solve a lingering issue in the deaf and hard of hearing community. His app gained traction so quickly that Batra was invited to present at NY Demo Day which resulted in a highlight in a recent Forbes article. For more information on Deaftel, please visit the website. You can also keep up with Deaftel and Kunal Batra by following him on Twitter.