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DEAF WANT ACCESS TO WIRELESS PHONES

Dear Editor:

I feel I must respond to Mr. Valentine’s response to your Viewpoint column.

First of all, I think Mr. Valentine is certainly keeping in line with his comments to several members of the industry Chief General Counsel that his main concern regarding the whole issue is that of his investment. When questioned about his alleged hearing aid interference concern, his response was, “whatever those two ladies (SHHH and A.G. Bell directors) want is fine with me.” These statements are direct quotes from Mr. Valentine stated at a luncheon at the Hearing Aid Summit in Washington, D.C.

Now, as to the contents of his response.

First of all, the certification requirement is reflective of several things. One, it does not remove the issue of hearing aid interference with an add-on device. Two, it does not guarantee hands-free hearing access for both hearing disabled people and hearing people.

To offer further proof of this, I used a Sprint Spectrum digital personal communications services phone with Global System for Mobile communications transmission for my three days in Washington, D.C. It was great. The voice sounds were transmitted very clearly. There was no hearing aid interference (unless I brought the phone within 3 inches from my hearing aid, which has a 153db T-coil*…*sure wish this was the case with all other interferences-computers, lights, microwave ovens, security systems, digital video cameras, etc.).

This transmission was made possible by using the HATIS hands-free cellular system, which allowed me, a totally deaf person to be able to utilize wireless telecommunications and hear! Thus, not only was the interference issue dealt with, but the phone became hearing accessible.

An interesting side point of proof is with the GSM phone, I went around using the phone directly next to numerous people with hearing aids, turning the phone off and on, and not one person reacted to any interference! What does this tell you?

The true key of this whole issue should be that of hearing accessibility, not just interference to hearing aids. Think about it. If just hearing aid interference is addressed, then guess what … the phones still are not hearing accessible. Which by the way, Code Division Multiple Access phones to my knowledge are not hearing accessible.

I must tell you, having participated in the “test” of GSM and CDMA phones, I found both phones to have hearing aid interference. However, only the GSM phone is hearing accessible, with the interference neutralized.

Now, as to Mr. Valentine’s comments on HATIS.

How dare you talk of “equal access” to telecommunications technology. Last I heard, you are a hearing person, with a private agenda! Further, you really don’t have a clue what is going on. Still leaving it to those “two ladies,” you referred to at the luncheon, right? Wake up, they only speak for about 13,000 hearing disabled, not exactly a full representation. Not to mention, they represent technology that slams that door on the majority of us in regards to hearing access, just as it does on wireline phones.

At a recent meeting in Norman, Okla., Dr. Mark Ross tried HATIS with a cellular phone, and told several of us that he really liked it. He could hear great. When asked what the problem of the cord on HATIS really was, he responded, “Well, we had to focus on the cord as we were afraid that the hearing aid manufacturers would grab on to HATIS as the total solution, and not do anything about all the other interference issues.” Dr. Ross was representing SHHH headquarters at this meeting!

Further, who is promoting what? I want access for all people with hearing loss. SHHH and the rest of Valentine’s group want hearing aid compatibility built into every single wireless phone, period. Excuse me, but it has been proven that hearing aid compatibility only benefits those with a mild to moderate hearing loss. I might also point out, it requires a T-coil in the hearing aid.

Not only does this not make any sense, but has anyone looked at wireline hearing access lately? On the cellular side, there are more than 100 phones that are hearing accessible today. Wireline-give me a break! After all, I am the one who has to use cellular to order room service in a hotel because I can’t hear on any of the wireline phones with their existing technologies.

Mr. Valentine’s bogus numbers on who has T-coils really do not make any sense in regards to T-coil benefits. Now, I have had a T-coil in my hearing aid since 1953, so it’s not exactly new technology. Equally, according to the Telecoil Survey of 1993, 89 percent to 100 percent of hearing aids have T-coils, or can access a T-coil boot for $59. It is kind of ironic. This survey was published in the SHHH Journal.

As to Mr. Valentine’s comment of, “supplemental access devices would not be necessary if GSM equipment manufacturers solved their interference problem.” Back to step one of hearing access. We don’t need to be able to hear and understand on the phone. He just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t want to get it.

I wonder why he hasn’t tried to save all of us from computer screen interference that has been going on for years and years. Maybe he doesn’t have an investment in the computer industry.

It really amazes me the incredible amount of misinformation, disinformation, indirect and direct sabotage that is going on. Maybe everyone needs to go back to the reason for the summit meetings. That is to work together to find solutions for hearing accessibility for the millions and millions of people with hearing disabilities in the nation.

Come on people, the telecommunications industry can only do so much. The hearing aid manufacturers can only do so much, and the FCC will only put up with so much. We have to work together to reach solutions for hearing accessibility and choices. Isn’t that really the bottom line? It is a pity Mr. Valentine doesn’t hear or comprehend that. I thought I was the one with the hearing disability!

Jo Waldron

president & chief executive officer

Phoenix Management Inc.

RCR Publications welcomes letters to the editor responding to articles and commentary presented in the newspaper or stating opinions on other topics relevant to the wireless industry.

Letters must be signed by the author. RCR reserves the right to edit letters for style and space. Letters can be mailed to the company at 777 E. Speer Blvd., Denver, Colo., 80203, sent by fax to (303)-733-9941, or sent by e-mail to [email protected]

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