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William Prentice chats with an interpreter during a demonstration call. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

Maricopa Resident William “Wilz” Prentice is one of an estimated 5,000 people living in Maricopa who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Prentice, who was born deaf, demonstrated Monday morning new technology that could revolutionize telecommunication for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community in the city.

The service was launched by the Maricopa Public Library Aug. 20 and is free to the public.

The new VideoPhone program aims to make communication services for those who use American Sign Language more accessible.

“This makes it a lot easier, a lot faster to communicate than the old TTY system,” Prentice said through an interpreter.

Considered outdated, TTY technology utilized phone and text through an interpreter to communicate. The service was complicated and required its users to have regular access to the equipment.

The new VideoPhone services at the library allow anyone to place video calls through their smart phone or on the library’s computer outfitted with a webcam to anyone in the country.

An interpreter, appearing by video, is available on the other line for calls placed to someone who does not use ASL.

Cindy Price is fluent in ASL and assisted in interpreting conversations during demonstrations Monday.

Price said the free VideoPhone service is one less barrier for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

“Having access at the library is great because if they really need to communicate, they can come here. It’s free. They don’t have to have additional resources so it’s actually a great equalizer for them,” Price said.

Fred Greenspan, who is hard of hearing, spearheaded the effort to bring VideoPhone services to Maricopa.

Greenspan believes the new program will help those who don’t have videophone ability on their cell phones and those hunting for a job.

“A person who is deaf can do anything,” Greenspan said.

An advocate for the Deaf community, Greenspan directed local politicians to try the technology themselves, including Congressman Tom O’Halleran, Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer and Mayor Christian Price.

Calls were placed to O’Halleran’s office in Washington, D.C., the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Topeka, and others.

Volkmer and Casa Grande Public Library Manager Amber Kent expressed interest in implementing the service throughout Pinal County. The program is paid for by taxes on phone bills.

The presentation, the first of its kind locally, was educational for many.

“We are one of the few in the county that has this, and I learned a lot today,” said Mayor Price. “It’s revelatory. It really is.”

System instruction is available during Library hours: Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

The Maricopa Public Library in Arizona launches VideoPhone technology and service for use by deaf and hard of hearing community members who use ASL (American Sign Language) to communicate. Deaf patrons who lack smart phones or high-speed Internet at home can access the Video Relay System (VRS) to call just about anyone instead of relying on family members, friends or older and antiquated TTY technology.

When: Aug. 20, 9 a.m.
Where: Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road
Who: Everyone invited

The idea to have this free service available to those who lack auditory and vocal acuity and who use ASL (American Sign Language), was initiated and coordinated by Fred Greenspan President of Tylin Promotions based in the City of Maricopa. Greenspan is the developer of the nationally given deaf sensitivity training class entitled “I Never Gave THAT A Thought!” at www.DeafSensitivityTraining.com.

“It all began in the City of Maricopa, Arizona. It is a pleasure to assist members of society who have a hearing loss,” Greenspan said.

Local resident William Prentice, who is Deaf, will place the first official call to the White House. The next calls will be to Robert Cooper, Executive Director of the Kansas Commission for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing in Topeka followed by calls made and received by Mayor Christian Price, his wife Cindy who signs, Arizona Congressman Tom O’Halleran, and Fred Greenspan who also signs.

The VideoPhone, or VP as it is commonly called in the Deaf community, was granted to the library from Sorenson Communications and is very easy to use. The “phone” can be used in two languages, English and Spanish, to users who are either deaf, or hard of hearing in a variety of different ways. When connecting a deaf user to a hearing user or business, there is an American Sign Language interpreter available for the calls.

“We are thrilled,” Library Manager Erik Surber said. “This is such a great opportunity for the patrons and the community.”

Though Arizona Council for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Valley Center of the Deaf, Burton Barr Central Library, Phoenix Deaf Community Center, and Phoenix College all have videophone (VP) services, the Maricopa Public Library is the first library in Arizona outside the Phoenix Metropolitan area to have VP capability that we are aware of. VP calls are paid for with monies collected from communications taxes on phone bills, thus enabling those calls to be fee-free for uses.

Surber said he anticipates several Deaf and hard of hearing individuals from Maricopa to use the service. An estimated 4,600 Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals reside in or around the City of Maricopa.

Instructions for use of the system are available during Library hours, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and Friday and Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

General VP connectivity across the United States is just like that of a standard phone line, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and available on all holidays.

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Photo by Michelle Chance

A warm afternoon couldn’t keep cold-blooded creatures from greeting children at the Maricopa Public Library Thursday.

A presentation by Radical Reptile Fun featured a Burmese python, tortoise and an argus monitor lizard. Afterward, children lined up to pet the scaly animals. The event was part of the library’s Summer Reading Program.

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Photo courtesy Velly C

Under the direction of artist Red Rohall, Maricopa teens designed, prepared and printed T-shirts at a Summer Reading Program event at Maricopa Public Library June 14.

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Photo by Michelle Chance

The Maricopa Public Library experimented with “Mad Science” Thursday afternoon. Children experienced interactive demonstrations with an educational element. One concoction mixed water, food coloring, dry ice and soap to create a brew of bubbles the kids could see and feel.

The event was part of the library’s Summer Reading Program.

Craig Davis brought his magic show to Maricopa Public Library for the Summer Reading Program. Photo by Michelle Chance

It was a spell-bound mixture of risk, trickery and magic inside the Maricopa Public Library Monday morning.

The Craig Davis Magic Show performed for families as part of the library’s Summer Reading program. Davis – who is based in the valley – entertained children with a variety of illusions including a juggling exercise, card tricks and the vanishing of a pet bird.

Future library events can be found on InMaricopa’s calendar.

Craig Davis' magic and juggling show is part of the entertainment for this year's Summer Reading Program. Submitted photo

Maricopa Public Library wants to reach new heights with its Summer Reading Program.

The annual event is off and running, with programming for ages 0 to 17. With each book participants read, they will be building skyscrapers. The theme this year is “Build a Better World.”

Library Manager Erik Surber said those who read 400 minutes during the program, which runs through July 14, will build the Empire State Building. Reading 800 minutes will build the Willis Tower (formerly Sears). And 1,200 minutes will equal Burj Khalifa.

Summer Reading Events
June 8 at 2 p.m. Mad Science Fire and Ice Show
June 5 at  10 a.m. Craig Davis Magic and Juggling Show
June 12 at 10 a.m. Chuck Field, Comedy Ventriloquist
June 14 at 5:30 p.m. Red Rohall T-Shirt Designs for Teens
June 15 at 2 p.m. Radical Reptiles
June 19 at 10 a.m. Fairytale Princesses
June 22 at 20 p.m. Step Up Clydesdale
June 26 at 10 a.m. Great Arizona Puppet Theatre
June 28 at 5:30 p.m. Anime for Teens
June 29 at 2 p.m. Jungle Jill Animal Encounters
July 8 at 9 a.m. Guided LEGO Build
July 10 at 10 a.m. Ronald McDonald
July 13 at 2 p.m. Magic with the Amazing Kaden

“They can choose whatever challenge they think they’re up to,” Surber said. “If they are completed by July 14, they can win prizes.”

Those include passes to UltraStar and Arizona State Parks.

He said if toddlers are read to or if children listen to audio books, it all counts. Older siblings reading to younger siblings counts for both.

“It’s something to do over the summer, and they learn to set goals and pace themselves,” Surber said.

The program also prevents the “summer slide” in learning so children don’t fall months behind during vacation. Last year, 1,500 participated.

The Summer Reading Program is not just about reading. It is chock-full of entertainment and hands-on fun.

Events in June include a fire-and-ice science show, a magic show, a ventriloquist, live animals, puppet theater, fairytale princesses and, for the teens, T-shirt designing and anime. A hallmark event coming in July is the Cactus Brick LEGO build to match the theme.

Maricopa-AZ.gov/web/Maricopa-Public-Library


This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Among the upgrades going into place at Maricopa Public Library next week are new locks and security cameras.

By Mason Callejas

The Maricopa Public Library is aiming to modernize its facilities as part of a renovation project set to take place next week.

The building at 41600 W. Smith Enke Road will be closed to the public Oct. 17-22 to undergo a laundry list of subtle upgrades designed to  not only beautify the facility but to enhance efficiency and increase productivity amongst the libraries visitors.

Upgrades to the computer systems and an expansion of wifi connectivity will allow patrons to better utilize existing information technologies. To further productivity the library also plans to experiment with 15-minute hassle free computer access which will allow non-members to use computers and printers at no cost for brief periods of time.

New locks will be installed on main entry doors and security cameras will also be added during the renovations.

“There hasn’t been any threat to call for increased security,” Library Manager Erik Surber said, but with other upgrades taking place he thinks it’s as good a time as any to make the changes.

As part of the project, the library will also receive a small facelift. New LED overhead lighting will replace the current fluorescent system, making the building more energy efficient. The bathrooms will get hot water for the sinks as well as new partitions in the stalls and a few new coats of paint.

Surber knows the changes will be subtle. Nonetheless, he is still “hopeful that people will notice.”

During the down time employees will take advantage of the patron-free environment and do a fall cleaning of their book catalog. Surber feels though it’s not yet time for an official audit, it will be a good time to clean up the shelves.

“We’ll be weaning old, unnecessary books,” Surber said. “It’s not a full inventory, more like a skimming.”

There will be no holds or items due that week, and no charges will be added to items not returned. However, returns can still be made via the night-time drop-off slot, as items that are passed due prior to the library’s temporary closing are still subject to standard fees.