WorldGate Videophones for the Deaf?

New York -- Hal Krisbergh’s WorldGate Communications Inc. has found a unique potential market for its new “Ojo” videophones -- the deaf.

Among those attending a WorldGate investor and media briefing here were executives from Aequus Technologies LLC, a company that provides translation services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.

Aequus CEO Richard Schatzberg said the firm is considering a large purchase of the Ojo, currently priced at $700 apiece. While he declined to discuss details of the potential purchase order, he said the Pine Brook, N.J.-based company could use the videophones to help deaf people make phone calls.

The plan: Aequus would supply deaf customers with videophones. Hard-of-hearing users could either use the videophones to communicate with each other directly using sign language, or a deaf person could have a conversation with someone using a traditional phone with an Aequus sign-language translator -- also equipped with an Ojo videophone -- relaying the conversation.

The videophones -- coupled with translation service, which can cost $8 per minute -- aren’t cheap. But Schatzberg said the Federal Communications Commission could pay the service fees for deaf Ojo users.

Through its universal-service fund, the FCC spent more than $30 million on video-relay services in 2003, he added.

For more on WorldGate’s Ojo, please see Steve Donohue’s story on page six of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.