Verizon Celebrates Decade of Service To Customers with Disabilities

MARLBORO, Mass. - Communicating can be a challenge for people with disabilities of all kinds. Serving the needs of those customers is the mission of Verizon's Center for Customers with Disabilities, a pioneering facility, now a decade old, which has become a model for facilities of its type.

Today, the company is observing the 10-year anniversary, as well as National Disabilities Awareness Month, with a daylong program at the Marlborough, Mass., center. Participants include representatives of people with disabilities as well as local, state and federal officials.

Customers with disabilities of every description, among them hearing, vision, mobility, speech and cognitive problems, can get understanding service from the center's specially trained staff.

Since 1992, the center has grown with its parent company, and now serves New York customers in addition to those in New England. The center has also broadened the range of services it provides, according to director Marilyn Benoit, who has been at the center's helm from the beginning.

"We have been serving customers with disabilities for more than a century, but I knew there was more we could do so we began to expand and coordinate our services with the founding of this special center," said Benoit, a 32-year company veteran. Under her leadership, the center began distributing specialized telecommunications equipment to those who could not use conventional telephones.

"We are committed to offering equal access to people with disabilities using our products and services," said Benoit.

The center's staff assists customers in getting a wide array of telecommunications services, including basic and optional phone services, as well as services designed to meet the needs of the center's customers. Currently, DSL Internet access is among the most valuable services for customers with disabilities. Other services include relay service using text telephones, phone bills in large type or Braille, and specialized phone equipment for those with various types of disabilities. The company also uses universal design principles so that new services and products are developed keeping in mind the special needs of people with disabilities.

"More than any product or service, what has made this center a success is a genuine attitude of caring and listening to our customers," said Benoit.

"The center's mission reflects our corporate strategy to serve the communications needs of all our customers, " said Larry Babbio, Verizon vice-chairman and president, who is participating in the anniversary celebration.

For today's event, the staff designed exercises to help guests better understand the challenges faced by people with disabilities. The evening program will feature entertainment by a number of performers, most with disabilities, including singer and actor Tom Sullivan, who is blind and a Bay State native, and cabaret song stylist Bryce Libby.

Wilma Pagan, a service representative in Verizon's Multilingual service center, and PAH, a theater group of deaf youth, will sing the program's theme song, "It's Possible." Local artists associated with the Very Special Arts of Massachusetts, a nonprofit organization that facilitates access to the arts, culture and the community for those with disabilities, will display their works.

For more information on what Verizon offers people with disabilities, see the center's Web site at www.verizon.com/disabilities.

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 135.1 million access line equivalents and 30.3 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and approximately 241,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.