A woman recently called IPAT to talk about getting a different phone due to a permanent, age related change in her ability to speak clearly. She stated that when speaking face-to-face she manages fairly well, but using the phone is a real struggle. She wondered if there was a phone that would let her type and read instead of speak and listen.

There is such a phone, but I asked if she had a hard time hearing as well as speaking. When she answered no, I suggested she consider a phone that would allow her to type her side of the conversation and then listen to the party she was calling. This is done using a hearing-carry-over (HCO) phone and relay services. 

HCO relay allows a person who can hear but who has limited or no speech to make and receive phone calls. Using HCO relay and a specially designed telephone with a text display and keyboard, a HCO user can listen directly to the voice of the other person on the call and type a response to a relay communication assistant, who then voices the typed response to the other person.

The HCO phone option made immediate sense to this caller, and an application to North Dakota’s Telecommunication Equipment Distribution Program was mailed to her for completion and submission. When you are facing a change in abilities, don’t forget IPAT and assistive technology as a resource for a different way of doing things!


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