Special gear helps deaf, blind communicate
Tue, Apr. 11, 2006
By KATIE HAHN
The deaf and blind of South Carolina have relief when it comes to phone communication. Free assistance is available through the state-supported S.C. Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program.
The program provides equipment such as amplified telephones, text telephones, artificial larynxes and alerting devices to S.C. residents who have vision, speech and hearing problems.
Anne Bader, a local outreach coordinator for the program, helps residents gain access to much-needed equipment .
Diagnosed with sensory neural hearing loss, she is not only a paid advocate of the program, but a user.
“This equipment has truly improved my ability to be independent and productive,” Bader said.
The program has helped more than 13,000 residents, 78 percent of whom are older than 65 and dealing with late-onset hearing loss.
However, the program is open to people of all ages as long as they are S.C. residents, have home phone service and have a certified disability that causes difficulty using a standard phone.
Funding for the program is provided through the Dual Party Relay Fund and is collected by a monthly surcharge to all business and residential phone lines in the state. The surcharge is currently 15 cents and is listed as Telecommunications Relay Service on monthly phone bills.
Cindy Willis, an employee in interpretive services at the School for the Deaf and Blind in Spartanburg, started using phones from the program 18 months ago. She heard about the program from a friend.
“(Before) I had confusion with phone calls and shied away from using the phone,” Willis said. “Now I have more confidence making the phone calls I need to make,” she said.
The program determines which equipment is best for individuals and upgrades equipment with improved technology.
The program currently is testing a new captioned telephone that displays written, word-for-word captions of everything the caller says.
TO LEARN MORE:
(803) 896-8337 (voice) or (803) 896-8334 (text telephone)
Toll-free, (877) 225-8337 (voice) or (877) 889-8337 (text)