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News Release
Accessibility Tools Help As Commission Names Two New TDAP Advisors
September 7, 1999 (1999-037)
Contacts:  Ron Eachus, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Roger Hamilton, Commissioner 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Ron Karten, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
Salem, Ore. – With open captions and a signing interpreter, the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) today named BettySue Chambers Bischoff and Cheryl Coonce as members of the Telecommunication Devices Access Program (TDAP) Advisory Committee.
Two accessibility tools were provided by the Commission to help hearing impaired individuals participate in the meeting -- open captioning, which is performed by a court reporter who utilizes electronic equipment to transmit the proceedings of the meeting on a large screen television, and sign language interpreting. Ms. Bischoff is hard of hearing. Ms. Coonce, who has cerebral palsy, is mobility impaired. Today marks the first time that the Commission has used open captioning.
Ms. Bischoff, of Leaburg, has been involved with her local chapter of SHHH (Self Help for the Hard of Hearing) for the past six years. "Her use of and knowledge of amplified phones and other telecommunications assistive devices will provide the TDAP Advisory Council important feedback from a non-signing, hard of hearing individual’s perspective," said Damara Paris, manager of the Commission’s Residential Service Protection Fund. TDAP is one of three RSPF programs.
Ms. Coonce, who traveled from Redmond to attend the session, is a community college student with speech and mobility impairments. "As she demonstrated by her travel this morning, Ms. Coonce certainly has the energy to be an effective member of the committee," Ms. Paris said. "But her willingness to travel from Central Oregon aside, her perspective as one who has difficulty using standard phones due to physical impairments will be invaluable to the committee."
"It wasn’t so long ago that we seldom saw people with impairments in the workplace," said Commissioner Roger Hamilton. "Today, BettySue Chambers Bischoff and Cheryl Coonce have become decision-makers and advisors. And that’s why this Advisory Board is one of the most important programs we have."
The Council requires participation by nine consumers, seven who are deaf or hard of hearing, one who is speech-impaired and one who is mobility impaired. With these appointments, the Council is again at full strength.
The appointments are effective immediately and last through the end of 2003.
"We are grateful that two such qualified individuals are willing to work with the Commission to continue to improve basic telephone service for members of this state," said Commissioner Joan Smith.
TDAP is one of three special assistance programs operated by the Commission. It provides special telecommunications devices to Oregonians who are deaf, hearing- and/or speech-impaired, or who have other physical disabilities that would prevent them from using a telephone. The service loans these devices to eligible Oregonians without charge, and is funded by a small surcharge on all phone bills.
The Commission also administers two other programs to make telephone service more accessible. The Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service (OTRS), allows those using special TDAP devices to communicate through a hearing and speaking operator with the hearing public. Link Up America and the Oregon Telephone Assistance Program (OTAP) provide subsidies for local residential service – both hook-up and the monthly service fees -- for those Oregonians whose incomes are at or below the federal poverty level.
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