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April 13, 2005

Phone system for deaf installed

From: Ann Arbor News, MI - Apr 13, 2005

Public pay teletypewriter device at city hall is a first for downtown

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
News Staff Reporter

In the small lobby of the Guy C. Larcom Municipal Building, Terri Fear puts the receiver of the pay phone down on the shelf and dials a few numbers.

When a small keyboard and screen pops out, she types out a message and carries on a conversation with a friend.

The teletypewriter - or TTY - device - in city hall at Fifth Avenue and Huron Street - is the first public pay phone for the deaf in Ann Arbor downtown.

Fear came up with the idea about five years ago when she was a member of the Ann Arbor Commission on Disability Issues.

Commissioners plan to install two more of the devices, says Paul Cartman, chairman of the Ann Arbor Commission on Disability Issues.

They'd like at least one to be outside and are considering a site on Main and William streets, Cartman says. Another would be installed at a non-municipal site, such as in a bank, he says.

A deaf caller can type in a message to the Michigan Relay Center, which places a call to a hearing person and then types the responses back to the deaf caller. Or a hearing person could use the TTY to contact a deaf person with a keyboard connection.

The Commission on Disability Issues started looking for funding in 2000. In 2004, it received a $5,000 grant from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. So far only about $1,100 has been spent, Cartman says.

Although he's not happy it's taken about five years to get even the first system installed, Cartman says, "I'm proud time hasn't dissuaded us.

"We're sort of terrier-esque, in that so far we've got our teeth in this and we're not dropping it."

Cartman deserves the credit for not giving up on the project, says Fear. "Without him, it wouldn't have happened," she says.

But hasn't new technology outdated TTY? Five years ago, TTY was the way to go, but Fear, who also is president of the Ann Arbor Deaf Club, says she now uses a cell phone with a small keyboard when she's away from home.

Still, she says, the TTY phone will come in handy for the deaf community, for someone whose cell phone needs recharging or who doesn't have one.

"People will use it," she says. In any event, Fear says, "it's good to have."

Marianne Rzepka can be reached at (734) 994-6820 or

© 2005 Ann Arbor News.

Copyright 2005 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.