||A Phone of Our Own
The Deaf Insurrection Against Ma Bell
Harry G. Lang
From The Midwest Book Review
Less than one percent of the 85 million telephones in the U.S. and Canada in 1964 were used regularly by the deaf. That's when Robert Wetbrecht (physicist with the Stanford Research Institute), James Marsters (orthodontist), and Andrew Saks (businessman) started the process that led to deaf people around the world possessing an affordable phone system that they could use. All three of these enterprising men were also deaf. Harry Lang’s A Phone of Our Own: The Deaf Insurrection Against Ma Bell is the fascinating story of how these three diverse men collaborated to solve the technical difficulties of developing a coupling device for a teletypewriter that would translate sounds into discernible letters. With the help of an expanding corps of deaf advocates, ATT and FCC resistance to this technological innovation was overcome and a portable, fully accessible, and affordable telephone system came into being for the deaf community. A Phone of Our Own is a remarkable and enduring story of innovation and the enduring human spirit.
Harry G. Lang is Professor Emeritus at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology.