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Free phones available for deaf and hearing impaired

Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Pennsylvania residents who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can apply for free specialized equipment that will enable them to communicate better by telephone.

Yesterday, representatives of the Statewide Independent Living Council demonstrated some of the state-of-the-art technology available through the LiberTTY program at the Pittsburgh Hilton and Towers, Downtown.

The individual pieces of equipment would cost $34 to $7,000 if they were purchased on the private market, said Alice Bosley, a consumer educator.

Bosley said the equipment is free to persons who are certified as deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing or speech impaired and whose individual income doesn't exceed $16,700. She stressed that only the person's individual income is considered, not family income.

Recipients must be at least 6 years old, be Pennsylvania residents and have telephone service at home to be eligible for the equipment.

Bosley said funding for the equipment comes from the Pennsylvania Relay surcharge paid by telephone customers.

She said the program has served 1,400 people since it was formed in 1997.

In Pennsylvania, there are about 82,000 people who are deaf and about 700,000 who are hard of hearing.

The Statewide Independent Living Council, as designated by the state Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, is making "road trips" across the state to try to increase public awareness about the program.

For more information, call 1-866-542-3788 or visit the LiberTTY Web site at www.libertty.org .



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