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January 3, 2006

New phones here for those with hearing loss

From: Tucson Citizen - Tucson,AZ,USA - Jan 3, 2006


The first technology allowing people with hearing loss to speak on the telephone without having to use an operator is now available free to qualified Arizonans.

Introduced Jan. 1, CapTel phones, also known as captioned telephones, allow people to read the text of conversations.

This puts Arizona on a list of more than 30 states offering the CapTel Relay Services and phones. The phones typically cost more than $300 each for those able to pay.

"This will be a critical enhancement to their quality of life," Gov. Janet Napolitano said in a news release last week.

CapTel, which uses voice-recognition technology, is available to deaf or hard-of-hearing Arizona residents who use hearing aids or assistive listening devices, but can speak coherently.

Unlike the popular Text Telephone, or TTY, or the Telecommunication Device for the Deaf, or TDD, CapTel has a built-in text screen, allowing users to speak through the telephone, and read the text in real time.

"We've been working quite some time to find the funding," said Dee Ann Deaton, spokeswoman for the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

While an estimated 450,000 Arizona residents are either deaf or hard of hearing, Arizona Relay Service - a division of ACDHH - can provide only 125 of the phones this year and 125 in 2007 to qualified Arizonans. Deaton said the agency couldn't afford more than the about $87,000 it spent.

"We're hoping to acquire more in the future," she said. "We're hoping to show the need and that it will be well-received."

Anne Levy, executive director of the Community Outreach Program for the Deaf, said having a conversation via a TTY service can be tedious and frustrating because a telephone operator must be on the line, transcribing the conversation in text and verbally.

"We're in a time-oriented society," Levy said. "That delay is problematic."

Loretta Butler of the Adult Loss Of Hearing Association said the technology will also help businesses who employ hard-of-hearing people.

"People have a tendency to hang up if it's too much trouble or if there are too many problems waiting for the relay operator," said Butler, the association's office manager and program coordinator.

More information

• The Adult Loss of Hearing Association, a local support and advocacy organization, is available at 795-9887 or 795-9585 (TTY).

• The Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is a resource center that, among other things, operates a 24-hour telephone relay service, advocates for deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens and provides workshops on civil rights, legal and aging issues.

• David G. Myers will lead a seminar about loop systems, or assisted hearing systems, Jan. 29, from 1 to 2:45 p.m., at St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church, 4440 N. Campbell Ave. For more information, call 795-9887 or 795-9585 (TTY).

About CapTel

• CapTel phone users place a call as though they were using a traditional phone. As they dial, the line is automatically connected to a captioning service where an operator works behind the scenes to transcribe everything the second person says.

• The free phones are available on a first-come-first-served basis, after which ACDHH will maintain a waiting list.

• Only people who have lived in Arizona for at least 12 months, have a slight hearing loss, either documented at birth or later in life, and who have understandable speech, are eligible.

• Active or retired federal employees, veterans or members of the 562 federally recognized American Indian tribes do not qualify for this free service and must apply through the Federal CapTel program.

• A standard telephone line is required. Though CapTel Relay Services has no hookup charge, standard long-distance rates apply.

• For information on how to apply for the CapTel phone, Arizona residents may call ACDHH at (602) 264-6876 or (866) 223-3412.

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