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March 31, 2004

Research Drives PUC to Launch Statewide Public Awareness Campaign

From: PRNewswire (press release) - USA - Mar 31, 2004

'Spread the Word! Communicate by Phone with People who have Hearing or Speech Loss'

HARRISBURG, Pa., April 1 /PRNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) and Pennsylvania's Telecommunications Relay Service provider, AT&T, today began advertising with radio, print and billboards for a new public awareness campaign, "Spread the Word! Communicate by phone with people who have hearing or speech loss." The campaign is based on survey results that show most hearing Pennsylvanians are not aware of and do not know how to use 711 and PA Relay.

The new campaign, represents the joint efforts of the PUC, AT&T, and the Pennsylvania Relay Service Advisory Board. The goal is to educate the hearing public about relay technology in an effort to enhance the opportunities of people with hearing loss and speech disabilities for communicating with the hearing public in their daily lives.

The two-year campaign features: billboards; print and radio ads; articles and interviews; a Web site, ; a toll-free phone number, 1-800-682-8706; a traveling exhibit; education aimed at school-aged children; and more.

The campaign is a result of the PA Relay Service Advisory Board's request for such outreach and the Commission's commitment to ensuring that all consumers have equal and quality access to public utilities. The Commission directed AT&T to incorporate the campaign into its relay program in Pennsylvania.

"This campaign really began in 2003 with an extensive research study," said PUC Commissioner Kim Pizzingrilli. "We found only 9 percent of Pennsylvanians were aware of or had used relay services. This research confirmed what we suspected - hang-ups, disconnects and breakdowns in communications are a direct result of a lack of information."

A statewide survey completed in November 2003 revealed:
* The hearing public in Pennsylvania has a low awareness of the relay system 711 - less than 9 percent of those polled could identify the number or its purpose;

* Approximately, 98 percent of those asked could identify the 911 emergency number system;

* 79 percent could correctly identify 411 as the number to dial to get information on telephone numbers;

* 57 percent of the respondents said they believe individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can use the telephone;

* 70 percent had no familiarity with the relay service or any other relay technology;

* Over 75 percent of the hearing public never used some type of PA Relay technology to place a call or receive a call involving a person who is deaf or hard of hearing;

* 20 percent have received a call from a person who is deaf or hard of hearing; and

* Only 16 percent could recall ever trying to place a call to a person who is deaf or hard of hearing.

The research study also involved three focus groups, held in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, to measure the potential effectiveness of proposed campaign messages, advertisements and other elements. These were the findings:
* None of the participants had ever heard of the 711 number and only one was familiar with TRS and how the system worked; and

* Once they were made familiar with the system, the participants generally supported the campaign mission and messages.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission ensures safe, reliable and reasonably priced electric, natural gas, water, telephone and transportation services for Pennsylvania consumers, by regulating public utilities and by serving as responsible stewards of competition.

"Spread the Word!" Communicate by phone with people who have hearing and speech loss. Visit or call 1-800-682-8706.

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