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January 7, 2003

1-7, Local: Loud and clear: Program provides phone equipment to aid hard-of-hearing, disabled

From: News Journal, TX - 07 Jan 2003


East Texans who have difficulty in hearing or speaking on the telephone may qualify for a free specially outfitted telephone offered through a state program.

Jess Ingram, a volunteer from Longview working with the Coalition for Texans with Disabilities who got involved through his association with Ambucs, said qualifying for equipment through the program is simple. But because many people are not aware the decade-old program exists, it has been under-utilized.

"A lot of times when I tell people it's completely free there's disbelief," Ingram said Monday. "The equipment is free but people have to make application for it."

Ingram said there is no income requirement tied to participation. He said the main requirement besides the need to complete an application is that the applicant provide proof that he or she is a Texas resident. This can be with a driver's license, voter registration card or copy of a utility bill, he said.

"It's a good deal. We're just trying to get the word out that the program is available," Ingram said.

Once an application is submitted, there is normally about a four-month processing period before the applicant receives the equipment, he said.

LeeRoy Smith of Kilgore is among those who have already benefited from the program.

"It's a big, big help," Smith said.

He said he was able to hear people who have a louder voice on a normal phone.

"But I had trouble hearing people that talked low or soft," Smith said. "With this I can even hear my grandkids, who talk really low."

To receive an application or for information, contact Ingram at 238-3526 or the Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Austin at (512) 407-3250. More information is available online at

Among the types of equipment provided through the program are:

Signaler system — connects to a telephone and flashes a lamp when the phone rings;

Voice Carry Over telephone — used by people who can speak but not hear on a standard telephone;

TTY — a text telephone used by people who have difficulty speaking or hearing over a standard telephone;

Other special equipment — available to assist people who have difficulty lifting, holding or dialing a telephone;

An in-line amplifier — a device that increases telephone volume.

Ingram said the equipment is provided free through the TCDHH's Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program, which provides applicants with a voucher that may be exchanged for the specialized telephone equipment or services they need. The agency also provides a list of vendors who accept the voucher, he said.

© 2003 Cox Newspapers, Inc.