By Crystal Thompson
To many people in Montana, the telephone is a normal part of everyday life; but to the hearing impaired, communicating by telephone can be a difficult task.
The Montana Telecommunications Access Program (MTAP) was established in 1989 to serve the telephone needs of Montana's deaf and hard-of-hearing as well as those who are speech and mobility impaired. MTAP is governed by a 12-member committee appointed by the governor. The program is funded through a 10-cent surcharge on all telephone lines in Montana.
MTAP administers the Montana Relay Service (MTRS) which is a service that provides telephone accessibility to people with these disabilities. Montana Relay Services were implemented on May 9, 1991. Relay services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provide a communications link between those who use a communications device (TTY) and those who use a standard voice telephone.
MTAP provides specialized telecommunications equipment to those with physical limitations that interfere with hearing, speaking or holding a telephone. The goal of the organization is to reach everyone in Montana who can benefit and grow from the services they provide. MTAP offers security and independence to those in need of their equipment.
Equipment offered through MTAP includes the Crystal Tone phone, which is an amplified telephone with the ability to amplify both incoming and outgoing sounds. The phone also has the option of a 10-digit speed dial and large buttons for the visually impaired. A new loud ringer called Ringmax enables individuals who are hard of hearing to hear the telephone with ease.
Other equipment offered by MTAP include Ultratec TTYs, Watchmen Signalers, Western Electric amplified phones, Dialogue RC200s, Ameriphones, the Artificial Larynx and other equipment that accompanies these products.
Jamie Lee, outreach coordinator for MTAP, has high hopes for the future of the program.
"As the Outreach Coordinator for MTAP, my goals for the future are to make a significant difference in the communication needs of Montana's deaf, hard of hearing, speech disabled and mobility impaired individuals. With the help of our caring communities and friends, this will be achieved," said Lee.
As technology improves, MTAP looks to grow stronger to meet the needs of specialized telephone users in the 21st century. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the services MTAP provides, or to receive an application for the program, contact 1-800-833-8503 or write to: MTAP 111 N. Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT 59620.