A Virginia prison will become the first major institution in the country to install a videophone so deaf inmates can communicate with family and friends, reports the Associated Press. The installation is part of the recent settlement of a lawsuit by a group of deaf and hard-of-hearing inmates at Powhatan Correctional Center who claimed discrimination.
Deaf inmates who signed the settlement said the videophones will allow them to reach out to family they had not been able to communicate with for some time. “For the first time in years, I am going to be able to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to my deaf family members in Arkansas,” inmate Larry More said. Elaine Gardner, director of the Disability Rights Project at the Lawyers’ Committee, said effective communication is critical to the successful rehabilitation of deaf inmates. She applauded the department for “its foresight and sincere interest in ensuring equality for deaf inmates.”