01.30.2008

Verizon Offers More Help to Customers With Disabilities

MARLBORO, Mass. - Consumers who have hearing, visual, cognitive or physical disabilities are receiving more assistance than ever from the Verizon Center for Customers with Disabilities (VCCD) in Marlboro.


When the center opened in 1992, it had a staff of six representatives who handled approximately 4,000 calls a year from customers with vision, cognitive, mobility, speech or hearing disabilities. Today, as the center celebrates its 15th anniversary, its staff has grown to more than 100 representatives who now handle some 700,000 calls nationally.


"The men and women who work at the center are so proud of the work they are doing; they love the market they serve," said Linda Mahoney, who manages the center. "A lot has changed since we began this work, but our mission has remained the same: to provide the best customer experience possible to those customers who have a disability."


The VCCD was an outgrowth of the Massachusetts E911 legislation, which provided funding for the statewide E911 system as well as disability services.   The center was founded to help provide adaptive telephone equipment to Bay State residents. The center continued to expand to provide additional services and now serves customers throughout the United States.


The staff assists customers with many of their telecommunications needs, including phone, Internet and TV service. For example, the staff provides an array of telephones and other equipment, including TTYs, amplified phones and large-button phones. The VCCD also provides such services as large-print bills, bills printed in Braille, and even a talking caller ID service.


"Verizon's Center for Customers with Disabilities is well-known for its strong and responsive partnerships with people who are deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, deaf-blind or living with a disability," said Heidi L. Reed, commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. "Across the state, thousands have gained access to the telephone as a direct result of connecting with the center for knowledgeable advice, training and specialized equipment. The VCCD deserves our thanks for 15 years of vital service; their work has ensured that the telephone works for all of us."


Lisa Chiango of Billerica, who has used the services of the VCCD, said: "The people at the center are wonderful. They are so knowledgeable about our challenges and so helpful in finding solutions. We are lucky to have them."


The latest innovation at the VCCD is a new videophone gateway service that is being tested in some markets in the U.S. Using a broadband connection or Verizon's revolutionary new FiOS TV and Internet service, the gateway enables customers who use American Sign Language to communicate directly with a customer service representative, eliminating the need for a third party to assist.


The staff of the VCCD publishes a print and online newsletter called Forward Access, which provides news, special offers and articles that promote a greater understanding of the issues and needs most important to people with disabilities.


The VCCD staff also participates in a number of community events and fundraising activities in support of the people they serve. For example, last year a team of 13 employees of the VCCD walked and ran in the Verizon-sponsored Vision 5K, benefiting the National Braille Press. Last summer, the VCCD organized an accessible Kids Carnival for 30 children with disabilities and their families.


Customers with disabilities can learn more about the VCCD services by calling 1 800 974-6006 (voice/TTY) or visiting 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 nearly 66 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 235,000 and last year generated consolidated operating revenues of $93.5 billion.  For more information, visit www.verizon.com.


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