Thursday, March 6, 2008

Eat Blackberries, Get Bluetooth

I could not be more excited about my new telephone, which is not even a digital photo and video taking, music and YouTube playing, e-mail checking, instant messaging, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Blackberry. However, my new landline home-phone displays conversation as printed captions, essential for those of us with hearing impairments, statistically 10 percent of the population, almost one-million Georgians.

Meningitis and three weeks in a coma two years ago left me with 100-percent hearing loss. After receiving a cochlear implant, which bypasses my damaged ear functions, I can hear sounds again, but understanding speech is far from perfect. My best testing at the Atlanta Ear Clinic is 85 percent comprehension of a list of first grade words and phrases in a totally quiet room. Introduce standard background noise, and my score drops to 70 percent and worse. I have not used a regular telephone for two years. There are options, each with drawbacks. I have used internet relay more than anything else. The operator connects me to the person I want. Then I type my end of the conversation on my computer keyboard, and the relay operator types back to me what the other person says. There are long delays on these calls while you wait for your turn. Most people I call this way are politely displeased with it. With my cell phone, I have used the portable PocketComm in the VCO mode, better than not being mobile at all, but the small, two-line screen goes by too quickly. For me, this new caption phone, the CapTel-2000, is the best thing yet.

Here are my personal favorite features:
--Operator assistance is unobtrusive. You dial the number want. Voices on both ends of the call are transmitted in real time without any need to announce “Go Ahead” when it is the other person’s turn to talk. This blessing allows the conversation to flow more naturally, and you can even interrupt each other. To produce the captions, the operator, unheard by either party, re-voices conversation into the newest voice-recognition technology. A 15-second delay between what is heard in the telephone handset and the captions displayed is similar to what I experience watching captioned television.
--There are separate volume and tone controls. The phone has 35db amplification. Personally, I understand speech best at lower frequencies.
--Captions can be saved for review, up to 500 lines, approximately 2,500 words, maybe 20 minutes of conversation, I figure.
--Messages from your dial-up answering service can be retrieved for display as captions or use the CapTel handset as a microphone to playback home answer-machine messages in the form of captions.
--Audio jacks for 2.5mm and 3.5mm connections allow use of hearing aids, cochlear implant BTE devices, headsets, loops, etc.
--You can interact directly with recorded messages and phone trees. This is an advantage? Well, name me a business that has hired a real person to answer the phone.

CapTel also provides:
--911 Calls.
--Calls to other Cap-Tel users and TTY.
--Captions in Spanish.
--Caller-ID, including storage of missed calls.

Regular retail price of the Cap-Tel 2000 is $495. Georgia Relay has negotiated a special deal at $99. Download an order form at or call 1-866-694-5824 (voice/TTY). Free CapTel phones are available through the Georgia Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program for those who qualify medically and financially at or call 1-888-297-9461. I was on the waiting list only a week from the time I stopped by for a demonstration by Makeba Orr, one of my guardian angels at the Georgia Council for the Hearing Impaired, 4151 Memorial Dr., Decatur. Georgia Relay and GACHI are supported by the five cent charge listed on every telephone bill as “Telecommunications Relay Service Fund” and are established and administered by the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter


Abbie said...

i just got my captel phone but I wanted to share this site with you its the

Spring Web Captel

I just tried it out today and it was awesome!

Oreo said...

Way to go, Bill! Maybe you can find your retirement hobby as the consumer champion of the retired and the disabled. I know that if I needed this equipment, I'd be thrilled that you let me know how and where to get it, and at a reasonable price, too.


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