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December 1, 2002

Phone gear available for the deaf

From: Palm Beach Post, FL - 01 Dec 2002

By Deborah Circelli, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 1, 2002

While Florida has some 1.6 million hearing-impaired residents, only 250,000 or so are taking advantage of a free program that provides specialized phone equipment in the home.

Florida Telecommunications Relay Inc., a statewide nonprofit organization, helps hearing-impaired people become more independent by offering volume-controlled and amplifier phones. It also offers TTY, or text telephones.

A person can type messages to other TTY users, or communicate with a hearing person through an operator relay service.

"People can now participate in making their own telephone calls daily, which improves their quality of life," said James Forstall, executive director for the company.

The Public Service Commission oversees the program, created by the Florida Legislature in the early '90s to provide basic telephone services to the hearing-impaired.

All Florida phone service customers pay for the $15 million-a-year program through their telephone bills -- 8 cents per phone line. It also helps pay for the Florida Relay Service operated by Sprint that allows hearing-impaired people to communicate via an operator by dialing 711.

For more information or applications, contact:

Deaf Service Center of Palm Beach County, 3111 S. Dixie Highway, Suite 23, West Palm Beach, (561) 802-3353.

Deaf Service Center of the Treasure Coast, 2400 S.E. Midport Road, Suite 209, Port St. Lucie, (772) 335-5546.

Florida Telecommunications Relay Inc., (800) 222-3448 Voice or (888) 447-5620 TTY operator service.

Copyright © 2002, The Palm Beach Post. All rights reserved.