Maybe, just maybe, you'll read this and recognize someone you know. You may have just hung up the phone after talking to your mom or dad. Did you repeat yourself? Did she or he say, 'What?' every time you finished a sentence? Do you wonder how much of your conversation she or he actually understood? Think long enough and you'll recognize someone who has a hearing loss.
For many people with hearing loss, using the telephone is a struggle each and every time it rings. For them, mistaking words or misunderstanding conversations can make it seem like a hassle to use the phone at all. Fortunately, solutions are available through new technology to make life easier for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, or struggle to use a standard phone due to any disability.
Maryland Accessible Telecommunications (MAT), together with Maryland Relay, has been providing free assistive phones in Maryland for over ten years. Amplified and captioned telephones, ring signalers, large button, hands-free and text telephones are just some examples of what is available at no cost to qualified Maryland residents. The MAT program serves those who are Deaf, hard of hearing, DeafBlind, or have a cognitive, mobility, or speech disability. It is the goal of the MAT program to enable people who struggle to use a standard phone due to a disability of any kind to independently use a phone to stay connected to their world, their family and friends.
The MAT program provides free telephone assessments. Because everyone's ability is different, a variety of specialized telephones are available to satisfy an individual's communication needs. Six centers in Maryland have phones for trial purposes where MAT customers (or anyone interested in buying their own equipment) may visit and learn what works best for them. As an added plus, when a customer receives a phone from the MAT program, they may also receive free training and installation.
To be considered for the MAT program, applicants must:
Be a Maryland resident and at least 5 years old;
Be a recipient of SSI (Supplemental Security Income), SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), TDAP (Temporary Disability Assistance Program), TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), VA (Veterans), SSA (Social Security) benefits or Pharmacy, Medical, Housing Assistance, or be able to prove a financial hardship;
Be certified as having one of the following disabilities: mobility, blind, low vision, cognitive, DeafBlind, speech, deaf or hard of hearing, and have difficulty using a standard telephone;
Have telephone service in the home or apply for phone service.