Do you need special equipment to help you use
the telephone more effectively?
We live in an age where most people take using
the telephone for granted. At least several times a day, most of us
use a telephone to call friends and family members, schedule
appointments, place orders, and handle any of a number of other
tasks. A personís inability to use a telephone due to a physical
disability can often result in loneliness, isolation and a sense of
increased vulnerability. An inability to place telephone calls to
personal and professional contacts can leave a person feeling
isolated and dependent on others to assist with routine tasks but,
with the proper assistive telecommunication equipment, many
individuals can regain their independence.
If you or someone you know could benefit from
adaptive telephone equipment, help may be available. To address this
growing need, many states have programs which offer assistance to
people who have disabilities that interfere with standard telephone
usage. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired,
blind, or who have low vision, cognitive impairments, or restricted
mobility, are often eligible to receive equipment that will assist
them in using the telephone. These programs, commonly referred to as
telecommunication equipment distribution programs, often provide
qualifying applicants with free or low-cost devices to accommodate
the userís disability and improve their telecommunication access.
The Telephone Equipment Distribution Program
Association (TEDPA) is a national membership organization formed to
support programs involved in Statewide, or jurisdiction-wide,
distribution of specialized telecommunications equipment for persons
with disabilities. By providing a forum for these types of programs,
TEDPA participants exchange information and assist one another with
program administration responsibilities. Internet links to many
statewide program websites which provide information about available
products and services can be found at www.tedpa.org.
Each state determines which devices are
available, how frequently equipment can be replaced, and whether the
equipment is on loan to or owned by the qualifying applicant. Most
programs include devices such as phones with amplification and
special dialing and answering features, TTYís, Voice Carryover (VCO)
telephones, and ring signalers. Some programs offer more highly
specialized devices such as assistive speech devices and provide
qualifying applicants with individualized equipment training at a
regional field office or in the recipientsí home.
Application procedures and eligibility
requirements vary widely from state to state. Many programs offer
equipment to anyone with a disability which hinders their telephone
usage, although there are programs which restrict equipment
provision to only those with certain disabilities and sometimes only
to those from low income households. Proof of residency and
disability verification is generally required and some programs also
require proof of residential phone service.
For information regarding a program that may be
available in your state, visit the TEDPA website. Information may
also be available from state public utility or service commissions
(PUC or PSC) or agencies or councils providing services to
individuals with disabilities.
Specialized telephone equipment may be the
answer to helping you or a loved one use the telephone to stay in
touch with the outside world and maintain the independence and
freedom to live life to the fullest.