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Telecommunications Access

Telecommunications Access

With the exploding numbers and variety of telecommunications devices, it is nearly impossible to keep up with all that is going on. And even harder to keep track of which of this technology is accessible to people with hearing loss. Federal and state laws typically require that these devices be accessible to people with disabilities, if possible. Here’s the latest on appropriate access to this wonderful new technology:

Telecommunications Relay Service  is hardly new technology, but many of the new services offered by the various relay service providers are new and very cool.

Probably the biggest telecommunications challenge for people with hearing loss is how to ensure ongoing telephone access. As we move towards cell phones, we need to be especially vigilant to ensure that we maintain access.

The key to all telecommunications is the right to use the spectrum (range of electromagnetic frequencies) needed to implement the service. As you might expect there is competition for this spectrum.

October 2000 – Voice Mail and Voice Menus are often inaccessible to people with hearing loss and to those with other disabilities. The FCC has issued a Report and Order that addresses these issues.

July 2001 – For the latest and greatest on what’s happening in the telecommunications industry and how it will affect people with hearing loss, check out this article on The Telecommunications Products and Services Workshop.

July 2001 – Want to know something about the laws that affect telecommunications access for people with hearing loss. Then the TDI workshop entitled Section 255, 508, and Beyond might be just what you’re looking for.

July 2002 – The 2002 SHHH Convention Research Symposium included a very informative discussion of telecommunications issues by Gallaudet’s Judy Harkins, Ph.D.

August 2003 – Do you have a cordless (as opposed to wireless) phone that causes interference in your hearing aid? Here’s what you can do about it.

August 2003 – Here’s a great report on Brenda Battat’s 2003 SHHH convention workshop on laws that affect telecommunications access.

December 2003 – What’s this about VoIP and possible lack of access for people with hearing loss? This is a new technology that is taking over telephone communications, and we have to ensure that access for people with hearing loss is built in!

January 2004 – Maybe you’re thinking that all this attention on cell phones and relay services and Section 255 is fine, but you just want to hear on a regular phone. If so, you’ll love this information from Dana Mulvany!

July 2004 – Thinking about a cordless phone? Before taking the plunge, you might want to check this article from SHHH. It discusses which cordless phones are NOT hearing aid compatible and what you can do if you find such a phone!

July 2004 – Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is here and growing. And it’s threatening YOUR telephone access!

September 2005 – The AAPD likes a proposed Congressional bill that ensures access to broadband services for people with disabilities.

November 2005 – Hate those voice mail systems? Here’s a brief article with a link to a site that tells you how to get to a real live human for many of the most frequently called companies!

November 2005 – We have frequently expressed our concerns that new technology is allowing previously regulated services to be replaced by unregulated services. An example is videos on the internet. Even if they are clips of captioned TV programs, there is no requirement that the Internet version retain the captions. Here’s a summary of these issues from the NAD, and a report on what they’re doing about it!

April 2006 – Here’s another website with a long list of companies and instructions on how to get a human on the phone (bypassing their voice mail system!)

July 2006 – Here’s an FCC fact sheet entitled “Hearing Aid Compatibility for Telephone Equipment”.

March 2007 – Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Telecommunications Launches

June 2007 – COAT Applauds FCC Decision

June 2007 – Lise Hamlin’s Report on the June 2007 TDI Town Hall Meeting

December 2007 – Proposed Legislation Promotes Accessibility

January 2008 – Cordless Phones to be Hearing Aid Compatible

January 2008 – POTS, DSL, or VOIP? Amplified Telephones and Service Providers

May 2008 – Democrat wants to require disability-friendly Internet phones, video

June 2008 – 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act Introduced

June 2008 – Markey Bill Explained in Simple Language

March 2010 – WGBH’s NCAM Supports Goals of FCC’s National Broadband Plan

September 2010 – Comparison of Wireless and Acoustic Hearing Aid-Based Telephone Listening Strategies

December 2010 – COAT Affiliates Comment to FCC on Hearing Aid Compatibility of New Technologies


Maximizing our Ability to Hear on the Phone

January 2004

Dana Mulvany is the Director of the National Information and Training Center for Hearing Assistive Technology at Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH). She’s a real technology buff and she has a passion for educating people on how technology can help them cope with their hearing loss.

Dana has written a wonderful article entitled “Maximizing our Ability to Hear on the Phone”. Her topics and suggestions include:
– Choose telephone-compatible hearing aids
– Include a telecoil in your hearing aid and be certain it is properly programmed
– Consider using Direct Audio Input if your hearing aid is so equipped
– You May Hear Better on the Phone with Binaural Hearing
– Consider an Inline Amplifier with Multiple Frequency Bands
– You may benefit from the increased bandwidth of digital wireless phones or VoIP

To read this great article please point your browser to:


(If the URL “spills over” to two lines, you’ll have to cut and paste both parts into your browser’s URL field, or you can just use the shorter link created by Bob MacPherson of bhNEWS: http://makeashorterlink.com/?X1F312E17)


How to Get a Human on the Phone

November 2005

It seems that voice menu systems are popping up everywhere – you know, the systems that ask you to press one for sales, two for service, etc. Of course, they’re horrible systems for people with hearing loss. I seem to recall an effort a year or so ago to establish a standard number sequence to bypass the menu system and get directly to a human, but I haven’t heard anything about it in a long time.

But there is a website that tells you how to get to a live person when you call many commonly called organizations. You might want to save this one in your “Favorites”: https://www.quickbase.com/db/bam6rdiey?a=q&qid=5


How to Get a Human on the Phone – Part 2

April 2006

Here’s another website that tells you how to get to a live person when you call many commonly called organizations. You might also want to save this one in your “Favorites”: http://www.gethuman.com/us


Comparison of Wireless and Acoustic Hearing Aid-Based Telephone Listening Strategies

September 2010

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine speech recognition through hearing aids for seven telephone listening conditions.

Design: Speech recognition scores were measured for 20 participants in six wireless routing transmission conditions and one acoustic telephone condition. In the wireless conditions, the speech signal was delivered to both ears simultaneously (bilateral speech) or to one ear (unilateral speech). The effect of changing the noise level in the nontest ear during unilateral conditions was also examined. Participants were fitted with hearing aids using both nonoccluding and occluding dome ear tips. Participants were seated in a room with background noise present and speech was transmitted to the participants without additional noise. Full Story


COAT Affiliates Comment to FCC on Hearing Aid Compatibility of New Technologies

December 2010

COAT affiliate HLAA and other consumer groups filed Comments at the FCC in regard to hearing aid compatibility (HAC) for mobile phones and new technologies.

The group comments were endorsed by multiple COAT affiliates such as AG Bell, ALDA, NAD, and TDI as well as the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network or DHHCAN.

In summary, the groupp said HAC should extend beyond current wireless network communications technologies and multi-use devices that extend beyond “phone” functionalities should be included. Comments also addressed the need for in-store testing of activated handsets and phones at retail outlets to allow for smarter purchases by consumers, stating that such return policies should be flexible and fee-less. The group also commented on access to 9-1-1 services and asked for clarification on the HAC rule within 2 years.

The comments were in response to the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released by the Federal Communications Commission on October 25, 2010.

Read comments here.