Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairman Matthew M. Carter II and Florida Telecommunications Relay, Inc. (FTRI) Executive Director James Forstall teamed up to recognize the 18th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by showing Florida residents with hearing loss how to connect with 911, family, friends, and businesses.
Specialized telephone equipment offered through FTRI provides critical access to basic telecommunications services for deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind, and speech disabled citizens throughout the state. Overseen by the PSC, FTRI is a statewide nonprofit organization established in 1991, as a result of the Americans with Disabilities Act, to administer the Specialized Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program.
“Ensuring that disabled individuals are not discriminated against, the Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees telecommunications access for the hearing impaired and speech disabled,” said Chairman Carter. “In Florida, the PSC is charged with implementing this directive. Telephone access provided through Florida’s Relay Service (FRS) offers peace of mind for people with hearing loss and their families.”
Florida ranks second nationwide in population percentage with hearing loss, affecting nearly three million citizens. More than 3.8 million calls were handled last fiscal year by FRS, according to the PSC’s 2007 annual report on the Status of the Telecommunications Access System. The report also stated that 18,937 new deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind, and speech disabled individuals were served throughout the state; and 41,337 pieces of specialized telecommunications equipment were distributed.
“I sincerely believe that Florida residents’ telephone needs are being met with the special telephone that is available through the FTRI program and the Florida Relay Service. Our mission is to provide a special telephone and services to each Floridian with a hearing loss or speech disability to allow them access to the telecommunications system. FTRI enjoys a successful working relationship with the PSC as well as numerous organizations throughout Florida. Working together, we make a positive difference in someone’s life by ‘Connecting People to People,’” said Mr. Forstall.
FRS supplies quick and convenient telephone access 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Individuals with or without a hearing loss or speech disability can place a call through the system, and no restrictions are made on the number or length of calls. FRS gives users the freedom and opportunity to make both personal and business calls.
How does the FRS system work? A resident uses a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TTY or TDD), which includes a keyboard and screen, to type a message to a specially trained communications assistance operator, who then voices the message to the receiving party. The reverse process then completes the message to the person with hearing loss.
The equipment and ring signaling devices are loaned to all qualified permanent Florida residents at no charge for as long as necessary. For information on how to obtain the specialized equipment, call FTRI at 1-800-222-3448 (Voice) or 1-888-447-5620 (TTY) or visit www.ftri.org.
The PSC is committed to making sure that Florida's consumers receive their electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and wastewater services in a safe, affordable, and reliable manner. The PSC exercises regulatory authority over utilities in the areas of rate base/economic regulation; competitive market oversight; and the monitoring of safety, reliability, and service.
For additional information, visit www.floridapsc.com.
See photo of Public Service Commission Chairman, Matthew M. Carter II, and Florida Telecommunications Relay, Inc. Executive Director, James Forstall assisting FTRI customers here. (File size = 913KB)