Relay Texas offers free phones to deaf

Texans with hearing, speech disa­bilities, their families targeted with new awareness campaign

SAN ANTONIO - Relay Texas, an agency that provides telecommunication services to those who are deaf, hard of hearing, and speech-disabled says if you are a baby boomer, chances are your hearing was damaged by a number of factors that your parents never suffered through.

As a result, nearly 4 million people are at risk of living isolated lives with hearing impairment.

The environmental factors in play during the baby boomer generation include rock music, headphones, rock concerts, as well as typical damage sources like the noise of war combat and construction.

The Public Utility Commission via its Relay Texas agency wants to make sure this growing segment of the population is made aware of the resources and products that can alleviate the isolation that hearing impairments can cause citizens.

It’s begun a television campaign aimed at those who have no hearing or speech issues, but who fall in a demographic who are more likely to care for those who do.

"Really, they need to stay in touch with their families and friends, because if you can't stay in touch with those people, you are going to feel progressively isolated," says Eileen Alter, with Relay Texas.

The campaign is meant to grab the attention of women ages 35 to 64.

“Those people are the caregivers for a lot of elderly individuals, who might not be able to help themselves who might not be able to identify where to go or that these services exist,” Alter explains.

Among the devices that Texans with hearing or speech disabilities can receive for free is the Cap Tel phone, a regular phone with a screen that displays a the conversation you cannot hear.

Some run on simple phone lines, but others operate online as well.

Operators literally transcribe the conversation in real time so that someone who is hard of hearing can still participate in phone interaction and stay in touch with family and friends.

Part of the campaign is to make sure that caregivers arrange for these phones, especially since there are several free programs that provide funding for them with no requirements on income.

The Relay Captioning is free as well.

For others who don’t qualify as having a hearing or speech impairment, the phones can be bought for about $99.

Another aspect of the campaign is to make sure that those receiving a Relay Texas call from a friend or loved one don’t hang up under the assumption that they are being dialed by telemarketers.

For more information, visit Relay Texas's website.

For a list of recent stories Ursula Pari has done, click here.


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