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. These phones are provided by the Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program (DDTP) at no charge to eligible Californians.
DDTP distributes telecommunications equipment and services that improve communication for all Californians. A program of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the DDTP provides Californians with 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.
California residents are eligible for specialized equipment if they have phone service and are certified by a licensed physician, medical doctor, or audiologist. There is no cost, obligation, age, or income requirement.
Once an individual qualifies for a specialized telephone, they can call 1-800-806-1191 or go into one of CTAP’s Service Centers throughout California to determine the most appropriate device for their requirements. CTAP 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.
DDTP is funded by a small surcharge that appears on all Californians’ telephone bills. The money collected pays for both CTAP and CRS. This surcharge appears on phone bills as “CA Relay Service and Communications Devices Fund.” For more information or to download an application, visit www.ddtp.org.