COUNTYWIDE : Group Reaches Out to Disabled Callers

A nonprofit organization in Anaheim has begun a publicity campaign to make handicapped people in Orange County aware of special telephone services that may be available to them free.

"There are a lot of good services for disabled people available in the state," said Brenda Premo, executive director of the Dayle McIntosh Center for the Disabled. "Unfortunately, the people who design these services don't think about the importance of marketing these services to the people who need them the most."

Premo said Pacific Bell, General Telephone and other companies in the state are legally required to offer telephone services to the handicapped but that efforts to publicize the services have been poor.

With the help of a $45,000 grant, the Dayle McIntosh Center has taken the matter into its own hands by starting a publicity campaign called "Dialog," which sends telephone company representatives to the community to give presentations on equipment and services. The center has also designed information posters for speech and hearing centers and rehabilitation hospitals throughout the county.

"Our grant money is helping us to reach out to people with disabilities, their families and the people they work with to let them know the kinds of services that are available to them," Premo said.

Such services include a speaker phone, which allows a caller to talk into a microphone and hear the person on the other end without having to hold a receiver. For the visually impaired, large number overlays can be installed. Amplifiers are available for the hearing impaired, and for those who are deaf, a typewriter device connected to the telephone allows callers to type their messages to an operator, who relays it and types back a reply. Those who are both deaf and blind may be able to receive a Braille version of this device.

"We have everything from an amplifier for Grandma to a special telephone that a person with only head movement can activate by puffing on a switch," said Joy Tyo, manager of disabled services at Pacific Bell. "I think this is an exciting time. Equipment is now very small and compact because of rapid advances in computer technology. I think it's only going to get easier and easier for the disabled population to use the telephone and experience that independence that we all depend on."

To apply for disabled telephone services, call Pacific Bell, Deaf and Disabled Services, 1-800-772-3140 or the General Telephone Special Needs Center, 1-800-821-2585.

The next Dialog presentation is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Anaheim Convention Center. Call (714) 772-8285 for details.

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