The telephone may be an accepted part of life in the 21st century, but not for an estimated three million Californians. Most of us take using the telephone for granted. But if you have difficulty hearing, seeing, speaking, moving, or remembering, what seems to be a simple telephone call can be challenging to many—preventing communication with family, friends, and others.
The same telecommunications technology that fuels never-ending innovation has produced a wealth of specialized phones and devices so people with disabilities can communicate with family and friends. AARP California has partnered with the Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program (DDTP), a state-run program which provides these special phones at no charge to qualified residents.
A program under the California Public Utilities Commission, the DDTP distributes telecommunications equipment and services that improve communication for all Californians. Funded by a small surcharge that appears on all Californians' telephone bills, the DDTP provides specialized telephone equipment and relay services through the California Telephone Access Program (CTAP) and California Relay Service (CRS), respectively.
CTAP provides specialized phones that amplify sound, adjust tone, light up for incoming calls, display phone conversation as text, have large buttons with raised numbers, are portable, or have speed dial phone buttons incorporating photographs. CTAP offers approximately 60 types of specialized phones and devices, so all Californians can communicate their own way.
CRS provides specially-trained Relay Operators and Communication Assistants to relay telephone conversations between people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or are speech-disabled with those they wish to communicate with by telephone. CRS, captioned telephone, and Speech-to-Speech relay services are all offered in English and Spanish.
Once an individual qualifies for a specialized telephone, they can call 1-800-806-1191 or visit one of CTAP’s Service Centers where staff will demonstrate phone features, recommend the phone that best fits a client’s needs, and provide training on how to use and personalize the phone.