The New York State Public Service Commission has voted to make captioned telephone service available for hearing-impaired customers in New York state through its existing relay service provider. The Commission also directed that the new captioned telephone service be available starting in January 2007. The state’s new captioned service telephone program envisions making this service available to up to 300 customers per month.

“New York has a large hearing-impaired community that will benefit from captioned telephone service,” says Commission Chairman William M. Flynn. “The proposed roll out of 300 captioned phones per month would be the largest monthly installation rate of the service in the country. If demand should exceed this amount, I would expect that the industry will take a look at expanding the roll out and report back to us.”

Recent advancements in technology provide additional alternatives for hearing-impaired individuals. Increasingly, hearing-impaired individuals are using new technologies such as captioned telephone and video relay service over the internet. Captioned telephone service uses a telephone that displays near real-time captions of the current conversation, thereby providing greater functional equivalency for the hearing impaired. The captions are displayed on a screen embedded into the telephone base. The service is similar to close captioning of television or subtitle on DVD movies.

In May 2006, the Commission issued a Notice Soliciting Comments from interested parties on bringing captioned telephone service to New York. The Commission received letters from more than 100 individuals supporting the introduction of captioned telephone service in New York. The responses to the Commission’s Notice identified numerous benefits of captioned telephone service, including:
Deaf or hearing-impaired small business owners would be better able to conduct sales calls and better understand calls with their customers.

Captioned telephones in the workplace can help hearing-impaired and deaf persons obtain and maintain employment, and would remove the requirements for employers to modify job duties when hiring a person with hearing loss.

Captioned telephone service for the hearing-impaired would assist in facilitating critical communications with Emergency Services.

Captioned telephone service would improve the ability of deaf or hearing-impaired persons to regularly communicate with family and friends.

[SOURCE: State of New York Public Service Commission, July 19, 2006]