Deaf students aided by vibrations, alarms on smaller watches
By Angela Bryant Starke, KnoxNews.com
Originally Posted: May 2, 2009
Thirteen-year-old Michael Brooks twisted and turned the dial of his new yellow watch over and over again, setting off the alarm and adjusting the countdown timer. His classmates helped him tighten the Velcro strap so the watch would fit snugly around his wrist. After a few minutes, Michael took the watch off to inspect it front and back.
It’s not that Michael, a student at the Tennessee School for the Deaf, had never seen a watch before. It’s just that he had never seen a watch like this: A compact piece designed specifically for kids that has six separate alarms, a countdown timer and a vibrating feature.
Michael and other middle school students at TSD received the watches as gifts in a Friday morning assembly at the school. The Knoxville-based company PottyMD handed out more than 200 of its WobL watches, letting each student choose among the colors pink, purple, yellow and blue.
“It’s so cool,” Michael said through an interpreter. “I’ve never had a vibrating watch that fits.”
Traditionally, a vibrating watch is too large for most school-age kids, making them difficult and cumbersome to wear. And many times the watches will not have more than two alarms and a countdown timer. Carey Ownby, director of operations for PottyMD, says the company is the first to make a watch with a vibrator alarm and countdown timer small enough to fit inside a kid’s watch.
PottyMD first came up with the idea for a small vibrating watch in 2007 for its young customers who needed a timer for toilet training. Ownby says the company realized a kid-size vibrating watch had several potential customers, including those with special medical needs and the hearing-impaired. Making the donation to TSD was a natural step.
“We really wanted to have an effect on an area or group that would benefit from the product,” says Ownby. “This is great. The students seem really excited.”
Brittany Boles, 15, chose a purple watch to represent the school’s colors.
“I feel proud,” Brittany said through an interpreter. “It’s perfect for deaf people.”
TSD Superintendent Alan Mealka agreed and noted many students at TSD rarely wear watches because of the size and bulk. Mealka said that while TSD students are part of the cell phone generation that uses phones to text and keep time, they benefit from having a watch with so many features.
“It will help to make them independent,” Mealka said. “Some students need to be reminded about appointments or medications. A vibrating alarm will help them to remember.”
The WobL retails for $36, but to Michael Brooks the watch is worth much more.
“It’s like they support TSD. They support me,” says Michael. “And that’s nice.”