NEW YORK - Verizon customers who are deaf or hard of hearing and live in Delaware, New Jersey or Pennsylvania can now use American Sign Language and either a videophone or Web camera to communicate directly with the company about service-related issues.
The addition of the three states is the latest expansion of this customer service support, which the Verizon Center for Customers with Disabilities first made available in 2007 in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. The company subsequently extended the support to Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.
By using a videophone or Web camera connected to a computer, and a high-speed Internet connection, deaf or hard-of-hearing customers in these states can communicate one-on-one with a representative in the Verizon center who is proficient in using American Sign Language. The representative can handle orders, change services or answer questions.
Videophones usually consist of a set-top box with a screen and a built-in camera connected to a broadband router. A Web camera is supported by a computer and appropriate software. Either equipment option requires a high-speed Internet connection to receive good picture quality.
"We offer this level of service so our customers who are deaf or hard of hearing can communicate with us directly without the need for an interpreter or a relay service," said Linda Mahoney, manager of Verizon's Center for Customers with Disabilities. "Verizon offers broadband connections such as Verizon High Speed Internet or FiOS Internet - and our fast Internet connections can really improve picture quality on any videophone or Web camera.
"Due to the widespread availability and affordability of broadband, more and more deaf or hard-of-hearing consumers use a videophone or Web camera to communicate," said Mahoney. "We believe this option gives these customers a simpler, more user-friendly way to directly interact with Verizon for their telecommunications or entertainment needs."
ASL is a unique language that incorporates hand gestures and facial expressions, and provides a more expressive and fulfilling telecommunications experience than either TTY (teletype) equipment or traditional relay services.
The Verizon Center for Customers with Disabilities, which is celebrating its 17th anniversary this year, provides customer support to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind, or have vision, mobility, speech or cognitive disabilities.
[Note: For a video demonstration and recorded comments from Claude Stout, executive director of Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Inc. (TDI), a national consumer advocacy organization based in Silver Spring, Md., log on to http://verizon.mediaseed.tv/Story.aspx?story=35657.]
Verizon customer service representatives can recommend services and equipment that make communications easier for people with various disabilities. For example, Verizon offers phones that have photos on the buttons to help people with cognitive difficulties, and phones that operate by remote control for people with physical disabilities.
Some customers with disabilities can get an exemption from charges for directory-assistance calls made to 411 or for operator-assisted calls. Verizon can provide its bill statements in large print or Braille at no extra charge.
While Verizon does not currently sell videophones or Web cameras, the center supports sales of other equipment to help people with disabilities. [NOTE: See accompanying list below of available equipment.]
For more information about the Verizon Center for Customers with Disabilities, deaf or hard-of-hearing consumers in Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island can call, via videophone, 1-866-374-2585 (IP address 126.96.36.199). Deaf or hard-of-hearing consumers in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., can call, via videophone, 1-866-528-7202 (IP address: 188.8.131.52). The Verizon Center for Customers with Disabilities can also be reached at 1-800-974-6006 v/TTY. For information on the various products and services offered by Verizon for people disabilities, visit www.verizon.com/disabilities.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a leader in delivering broadband and other wireline and wireless communication innovations to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving more than 80 million customers nationwide. Verizon's Wireline operations include Verizon Business, which delivers innovative and seamless business solutions to customers around the world, and Verizon Telecom, which brings customers the benefits of converged communications, information and entertainment services over the nation's most advanced fiber-optic network. A Dow 30 company, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of nearly 224,000 and last year generated consolidated operating revenues of more than $97 billion. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.
About Videophone Use
Many deaf or hard-of-hearing customers are already very familiar with videophones, using them to work with video relay services to communicate with hearing persons with the help of an interpreter who translates messages to and from American Sign Language (ASL), or for direct communication with others who know and use ASL. Some computers equipped with the proper software and Web cameras can be used, as well. Videophones can be hooked up either to a regular TV or to a PC monitor [http://www.dlink.com/products/?sec=1&pid=293] or can be desktop units complete with a small screen [http://www.dlink.com/products/?sec=1&pid=302].
For effective video conferencing communication at good frame rates, customers need a high-speed line with an upload and download speed of at least 256 kilobits per second or higher. Verizon's High Speed Internet services range from 768 Kbps to 50 Mbps download, and upload speeds are available up to 20 Mbps on FiOS Internet connections.
Phones are simply dialed as usual, though with some equipment setups the phone number dialed actually represents a computer IP address
Customers have options regarding the hardware they use. Phones made by companies like D-Link can be purchased for about $150 to about $300, depending on the model and connection type. But other models by other makers are available free to users of various video relay services, which are publicly funded under Federal Communication Commission requirements.
Products Available From Verizon for Consumers With Disabilities
Big Button Corded Feature Phone (ITT2400). Provides one-touch photo-memory buttons (pictures can be inserted behind the buttons) and flashing visual ring indicator. Braille on buttons and hearing-aid compatible.
Ameriphone Amplified Corded Telephone (AMEP300). Allows for quick and easy dialing of pre-programmed telephone numbers by simply pressing a button (pictures can be inserted behind the buttons). Phone comes with adjustable amplification and bright ringer flasher handset; hearing aid T-Coil-compatible
Amplified phone that has a jumbo keypad w/Braille (JV-35). Jumbo-sized, high-contrast buttons with Braille. Electronic voice repeats numbers as dialed. Amplification boosts incoming sound with adjustable tone control for better clarity of incoming voice. Also has audio jack for use with assistive listening devices.
Talking Caller ID 99 Name and Number (CV9900CW). Uses patented VoiceAnnounce technology to announce calls over its built-in speaker or over the handset of a cordless phone. This gives Caller ID subscribers the ability to screen calls without the interruptions and inconvenience imposed by traditional, display-only Caller ID equipment.
Amplified 2.4Ghz Cordless Phone (CL600). Backlit Caller ID, powerful 2.4Ghz technology for extended range. Amplifies incoming voice up to 30 db with adjustable volume. Adjustable tone for crystal-clear clarity. Extra-loud ringer in base. Audio jack for use with assistive listening devices.
Portable TTY machine (751075). A dual-purpose TTY that is lightweight, portable and full-featured, it connects to TSB-121, which makes it compatible for mobile/cell phone and for many cordless phones. Built-in microphone and large display enables hands-free voice carry over (VCO) calls. Optional speakers or headset enables hearing carry over (HCO) calls. The machine comes with 68-key keyboard with one-touch capability for many common phrases.
Clarity 500 big button amplified telephone (W500). An ergonomically optimized, corded, amplified telephone with a Caller ID display. This phone enables people with a hearing loss to hear clearly and communicate easily. High-frequency sounds are amplified more than the low-frequency sounds so that words are not just louder, but clearer and easier to understand.
A voice carry over corded phone (751330). Also known as the "the speak and then read phone," it allows the user to speak to the callers while reading their words on a built-in screen through a toll-free relay service. It is easy to use, and no typing is required. It comes with a powerful amplifier to make the incoming sound 30 times louder.
Remote control hands-free speakerphone (RC200). This product can be accessed by remote switches. The RC-200 comes with a "mouse-style" remote control for memory scanning, dialing and answering from up to 40 feet away.