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Captioned Telephone Service to be Provided in New York State

Wednesday, July 19, 2006: The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) announced that beginning January 2007, PSC will provide Captioned Telephone relay service for the two million people in New York State who cannot understand conversation on the phone. This announcement marks a grassroots victory for people with hearing loss as January 2007 is a time that New York residents have been waiting for.

The Hearing Loss Association of New York State, led by HLAA member David Branfield, has advocated for this service for the past 18 months. HLAA-NY held several meetings with the New York PSC staff that culminated in a public comment period during which more than 100 citizens wrote to PSC telling why captioned telephone was so important to them in their everyday lives, especially in the workplace.

The decision by the New York PSC is cause for celebration and is indeed a victory for the grassroots members of Hearing Loss Association of New York who advocated strongly for their right to be able to use the phone like everyone else.

David Branfield, chair of the Captioned Telephone Advocacy Committee, New York State Association of the Hearing Loss Association of America commented: People with hearing loss should have options available to them that will enable them to understand and comprehend the spoken words via the phone. Captioned Telephone eliminates much of the time delay associated with the traditional Telecommunication Relay Services. Having a Captioned Telephone at work will allow an employee who can speak and has a hearing loss to perform phone tasks independently, and with mental and physical ease. Allowing Captioned Telephone Service in New York state is a win-win situation for everyone.

Captioned Telephone is similar to captioned television: spoken words appear as written text for viewers to read. Captioned Telephone provides the closest thing to real-time captioning for the phone where words appear on a built-in screen on the phone so users can read the words while listening to the voice of the other party. Captioned Telephone users place a call in the same way as dialing on a traditional phone. As they dial, the Captioned Telephone automatically connects to a captioning service. When the other party answers, the Captioned Telephone user hears everything they say, just like a traditional call.

New York joins 38 other states to offer Captioned Telephone and is leading the pack with the number of users they allow to join the service each month, which is planned to be 300. Captioned Telephone now is limited and rationed by the states due to cost. The Hearing Loss Association of America is petitioning for a nationwide mandate from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

There are currently 31 million Americans with hearing loss and that number is projected to rise to 40 million within one generation. The Hearing Loss Association of America strongly supports ways people with hearing loss can use the phone on their jobs, to reach emergency services, to conduct everyday business, and stay in touch with family and friends.

In October 2005, HLAA, together with 35 other professional and consumer organizations representing people with hearing loss, submitted a petition to the FCC requesting that Captioned Telephone be mandated as a telecommunications relay service.

Brenda Battat, HLAA associate executive director for public policy, said: Captioned Telephone allows people who have some hearing loss and can speak to use the phone in a manner that is most natural for them. Due to state limits on the use of Captioned Telephone it is the only form of relay service that is not equally available to all Americans who want to use it. This goes against the Americans with Disabilities Act requirement that relay services be functionally equivalent to the regular phone service and we are determined to change it.

The Hearing Loss Association of America (formerly Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH)) is the nations largest membership and advocacy organization for people with hearing loss. Founded in 1979, the Hearing Loss Association of America opens the world of communication to people with hearing loss through information, education, advocacy and support. It publishes the bimonthly Hearing Los sMagazine and its website is www.hearingloss.org.

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