Adults with difficulty hearing will once again have an opportunity to receive free help communicating on the phone with captioning telephones, thanks to a recent District of Columbia circuit court ruling. The CaptionCall® phone, an assistive listening telephone previously available for free through a provision in the Americans with Disabilities Act, has, since October of last year, been costing customers $75 per phone. The recent court ruling has temporarily lifted this charge pending further review expected to take place this summer.
Captioning telephones work like a standard phone for the user but connect to the internet to gather captions of words spoken by the individual on the other end of the line. The captions are displayed on the base of the phone near the receiver. The service is paid for by a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fund that fulfills a mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide functionally equivalent communication for those with hearing loss. Delivery and installation of the device are also free.
“This is a great service for anyone with a measurable hearing loss,” says Dr. Cindy See, an audiologist with Hearing Health Care. “Talking on the phone with a hearing loss can be difficult, leading to isolation and social withdrawal. CaptionCall, by showing the lines of speech on a screen, makes it much easier to fully understand someone on the other end of the line.”
The recent reversal of cost for the phone is due to a Stay Request filed by Sorenson Communications, Inc., the company that owns CaptionCall. The Stay Request was filed with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2013 and was granted in January. The free CaptionCall offer will remain in effect at least until the summer, when the case is decided, according to the CaptionCall website. The outcome of the case will determine whether CaptionCall will remain completely free or not.
“People with hearing loss are able to gain an extra communication advantage through this device and program, and it’s free,” Dr See says. “If this is something that an individual with hearing loss may want, now is the time to act while it is still free.”