Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Z-Van shares technology that will improve the lives of deaf children

CLEARWATER — A buzz of excitement permeated Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf as students awaited the arrival of something called the "Z-Van."

The van, which travels the country, is owned by Z Video Relay Service, a Clearwater telecommunications company run by and for deaf people.

Although Blossom Montessori's students have grown up with computers, video cameras and digital phones, the van was bringing new technology geared specifically to the deaf community. That, and the message to dream big.

On Tuesday, 23 students sat crossed-legged on the floor watching as two deaf ZVRS employees — regional director Jenny Locy and Z-Van driver Andrew Horn — encouraged them to pursue whatever careers they desired.

The Z-Van crew showed the students technology created to foster independence. Video phones that allow several people to communicate during one call. Video answering machines. Pagers that alert a user when a video message arrives. Even a phone connected to ZVRS that allows a deaf person to sign and a hearing person to hear the words in spoken language.

Some of the deaf students had never seen a videophone. Others had older ones at home.

Either way, the Z-Van's visit created a flurry of what-ifs and when-I-grow-up career ideas.

"I think learning about the technology is awesome," said Faith Patterson, 7, a hearing child of deaf adults. She wants to be a dress designer and an interpreter. "If my friend is deaf and lives in a different state, I can use a videophone to call her. You can do your dreams. No one can hold you back."

Edgar Garnica, 15, dreams of becoming a firefighter. "I know this technology would help people communicate with me if there was a fire," he said.

Lia Phagan, 11, who wants to become an artist, was interested to find out that deaf people used to have only one way to communicate over the phone — a device called a TTY, which exchanges basic text over phone lines using a modem. "I'd like to have an iPhone with voice recognition, so it would help me to speak more clearly," she said.

ZVRS donated a new videophone to the school. The company serves a growing market — roughly 34 million Americans have significant hearing loss, and nearly 6 million are profoundly deaf.

"Kids both deaf and hearing need to know what technology is out there so they can communicate with a broader world," said the school's director, Julie Rutenberg.

>>fast facts

Blossom Montessori

• Go to or call (727) 539-7879 for information about the school for the deaf.

Z-Van and ZVRS

• Go to for more about products/services.

Z-Van shares technology that will improve the lives of deaf children 12/17/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 17, 2011 1:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Search for missing Army helicopter crew suspended in Hawaii


    HONOLULU — Officials have suspended the search for five Army soldiers who were aboard a helicopter that crashed during offshore training in Hawaii last week.

    Water safety officials hand over possible debris from an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash to military personnel stationed at a command center in a harbor, Wednesday in Haleiwa, Hawaii, a day after. an Army helicopter with five on board crashed several miles off Oahu's North Shore. Officials  suspended the search for five Army soldiers in a helicopter crash during offshore training in Hawaii on Monday. [Associated Press]
  2. Rubio praises Trump for 'excellent' speech on Afghanistan


    Sen. Marco Rubio praised President Donald Trump's "excellent" speech on Afghanistan. Sen. Bill Nelson was less effusive but agreed with the goal.

  3. Gov. Rick Scott blasts report of shifting words on Charlottesville


    Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most scripted politicians in modern Florida history, said Monday that ‘both sides” bore blame for Charlottesville.

  4. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer


    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  5. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry


    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.