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September 8, 1993

New Telecommunications Relay Services, Other Communication Advances, Will Aid Disabled People

JAMA. 1993;270(10):1168-1169. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510100018005

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PHYSICIANS can now "talk" with their deaf patients on the telephone everyday and nearly everywhere in the United States—something previously almost impossible—and at the same time be assured of complete confidentiality.

This useful technological advance became possible this summer when a reliable telecommunications relay service for the estimated 26 million deaf, hardof-hearing, and speech-impaired persons in the country went into operation in 49 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. The system allows those who are deaf or have other communicative disorders to communicate via a regular telephone through a communications assistant.

The single state where the service was not yet available at press time is Oklahoma. The 40-some licensed telephone carriers in that state were not providing the service at that time, said Linda DuBroof, a Federal Communications Commission attorney in the agency's domestic services branch. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the licensed carriers have to provide the service.