New phone a boon to hearing impaired and mute 

Plans are to install up to four TTY phones in municipality by end of summer

Huey Tollett from Whistler for the Disabled demonstrates the new TTY phone installed by Telus last week.
  • Huey Tollett from Whistler for the Disabled demonstrates the new TTY phone installed by Telus last week.

By Andrew Mitchell

Frustrated with the lack of progress in getting TTY (teletypewriter) phones installed in Whistler for the hearing impaired and mute, Huey Tollett went to the top at Telus to ask CEO Darren Entwistle.

Within 24 hours Tollett had a commitment to start installing phones in Whistler, beginning with the installation of a keyboard-ready TTY Public Access Pay Phone in the breezeway entrance to Whistler Village off the taxi loop. Tollett expects to see at least three more phones installed by the end of summer, including a phone in the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain.

For Tollet, who became hearing impaired later in life, it was an important gesture by Telus.

“This is huge,” he said. “This is something that the (accessibility) advisory group and Whistler Adaptive Sports Program has been asking for for years, and within 24 hours of talking to the CEO of Telus the order was in for the first unit.

“This is the first concrete thing we’ve seen in Whistler for a long, long time that really benefits the disabled community. It really opens Whistler up to the hearing impaired and mute, which is a lot of people, and it’s really good for Whistler, and tourism, and the Paralympics.”

By following a set of instructions on the TTY phone, a keyboard slides out from underneath the phone. Information typed into the keyboard is sent to an operator, who relays the information to the person on the other end of the phone. When the person replies, the operator transcribes that information which appears on the keyboard. In Tollett’s case, or where the user can communicate verbally, the disabled person uses the phone attachment to speak, and reads the replies on the keyboard.

In addition to the phone with the keyboard, there are two text phones in Whistler where the user can use the number pad and screen on a normal payphone to communicate while using the same predictive text messaging features on most cell phones. The process is slower, says Tollett, and the screen is hard to read in daylight. However, he says the technology is promising.

“Bell is on its second generation of that kind of phone and this is Telus’s first generation, and it’s still not there yet,” said Tollett. “The potential is there for the technology to get a lot better… and it would be great if every phone could be equipped with it. It’s definitely cheaper for the phone companies, and convenient for the hard of hearing because it could be on any phone.”


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