Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Unique Partnership: Communication Technology Becomes Accessible When Industry and Special Needs Advocates Join Forces

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Unique Partnership: Communication Technology Becomes Accessible When Industry and Special Needs Advocates Join Forces

Article excerpt

There is one technology that links the vast majority of Americans. It is a technology that senior citizens, teenagers, mothers, fathers, and children use to communicate across the street or across the country: telephones. Telephones are an integral part of our personal and work lives. We use them to stay in touch with friends and family, conduct business, and find information. Individuals with hearing, speech, vision, or motion impairments also use the telephone system. However, they often require assistive telephone equipment for their special challenges.

Technology in action

A child who is deaf uses a Text Telephone (TTY) to communicate with a friend about weekend plans. A child with cerebral palsy uses a switch-activated phone to dial her grandmother to wish her a happy birthday. A retired fireman stops a downward slide into depression when he is able to hear his friends on the phone and converse with them again. A person concerned about their aging parent rests easy when they know that the parent can hear the phone ring. These are few of the many people who benefit from assistive telephone equipment.

Fortunately, there is a variety of accessible equipment and services that assist people with disabilities in communicating via telephone. Telephone devices are available to assist individuals based on their type of disability. For example, there are:

Devices for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing such as:

* Amplified telephone

* Amplified handsets

* Portable amplifier

* Teletypewriter (TTY)

* Visual signaler

* Loud ringer

Devices for individuals with speech impairments:

* Teletypewriter (TTY)

* Voice-amplified telephone devices for individuals who are blind or have a visual impairment

* Large-number telephone

* Large-number telephone with backtalk (The phone "speaks" each number as it is entered.)

Devices for individuals who are deaf and blind:

* Braille TTY

* TTY with large visual display

Devices for individuals with mobility impairments:

* Hands-free speakerphone

* Large-button telephone

People who have disabilities that limit their use of a conventional phone face another challenge: obtaining assistive telephone equipment that will help make use of their physical and sensory abilities. Obtaining the right equipment is a two step process that includes first, identifying the telephone that will meet a person's needs and second, finding the financial means to purchase it.

Technology and access come together

Because of a unique partnership between a publicly-funded program and a private telecommunications corporation, which provides telephone service in many states in the Northeast, individuals with disabilities in the state of New York have a resource that can help them find the best assistive telephone equipment and lease or purchase it at little or no cost. In a collaborative effort, the Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (TRAID) Project and Bell Atlantic, a regional telecommunications corporation, have established demonstration centers throughout the state of New York. There are 12 regional TRAID Centers in New York that provide information and referral services to state residents who want assistance in learning about and obtaining assistive technology. These centers bring a wide range of telecommunications equipment and services closer to people with disabilities, seniors, and family members. The TRAID Centers enable people to see, learn about, and test product advances and technologies that can improve the quality of their lives.

This assistive technology partnership between Bell Atlantic and TRAID assists customers of Bell Atlantic who have a disability that prevents them from using a conventional telephone. Any individual, who is deaf, hard of hearing, partially sighted, or blind, or has a speech or motion impairment can purchase assistive technology equipment at cost or lease with the option to purchase. …

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