When I first got involved in the Deaf community in Puerto Rico in 2002, a new technology had just emerged that changed the face of Deaf communication as we know it. The device was officially called a Hiptop, but I knew it as a Sidekick, complete with it’s own ASL sign. (non-dom. B-hs, palm up; dom. S-hs palm up, twist out into K-hs.) It was a hot item. The way it flipped open with a snap, had a large, comfortable keyboard (better than those Blackberrys), and had what seemed at the time to be an enormous screen. It was revolutionary, probably the only time Deaf individuals received technology ahead of their hearing counterparts.
Today I found a great article over on Medium written by Chris DeSalvo, one of the developers for Danger, the company that made the Sidekick. In it, he discusses the unique reception that the Sidekick received in the Deaf community. Here’s just an excerpt of the section on the Deaf community, but you should read the rest of the article because it’s really good.
With the hiptop you could get the same functionality without the extra hardware. Our TDD was software based and built in. Suddenly deaf and hard of hearing users could communicate with hearing users anywhere, anytime. A cell phone for deaf users. The letters of thanks we received at the office because of this would break your heart if you read them. T-Mobile did a great thing and offered a data-only pricing plan for deaf users since they couldn’t use the voice minutes. There is an official ASL sign for the hiptop.