Celebrating the unique communications link between the deaf, hard of hearing, speech disabled, and the hearing, Florida’s Public Service Commission (PSC) and Florida Telecommunications Relay Inc. (FTRI) today highlighted 20 years of providing “communications freedom” through the Florida Relay Service (FRS).
FTRI, a non-profit corporation formed at the PSC’s direction, administers the statewide FRS system. Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, FRS facilitates telephone calls between people with hearing loss or speech disabilities and other individuals by using special equipment and a communications assistance operator to facilitate the telephone conversation.
PSC Commissioner Ronald A. Brisé, with FTRI Executive Director James Forstall, placed a phone call to a hard of hearing consumer in North Miami, who had recently acquired specialized telephone equipment through FTRI and now enjoys the freedom to initiate a telephone call at his convenience. They were joined by FTRI Board members, Harvey Spears of CenturyLink and Cecil Bradley of the Florida Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.
“In a complex communications world where we compare bytes to kilobytes, to megabytes, to gigabytes, we still must be able to simply talk with one another,” Commissioner Brisé said. “The FRS has directly impacted thousands of deaf and hard of hearing Florida residents who can obtain employment, call relatives and friends, and make other calls many of us take for granted.”
“Since the beginning of the FTRI program in 1991, more than 435,000 residents have been given specialized telecommunications equipment and support services,” Forstall said. “Both users and end users appreciate the communications freedom FTRI brings to their lives.”
Marking 20 years of communications freedom is especially fitting since July is also the 21st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 1991, the Florida Legislature established the Telecommunications Access System Act (TASA), and the PSC directed local exchange companies to form a not-for-profit corporation to accomplish the TASA requirements. Today, FTRI continues to fulfill TASA’s intent by providing cost effective access terminals for basic telecommunications services to deaf, hard of hearing, speech disabled, and deaf-blind persons.
One FRS method uses a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf, which includes a keyboard and screen to contact a communications assistant, who then voices the message to the receiving party. The reverse process completes the message. The current surcharge of $.11 per landline access line per month funds the distribution of specialized telecommunications devices and relay service.
For information on how to obtain specialized equipment, call FTRI at 1-800-222-3448 (Voice) or 1-888-447-5620 (TTY) or visit
For additional information, visit www.floridapsc.com or
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