Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

David Saks, led effort to make phones work with hearing aids


David Saks, whose efforts on behalf of people with hearing problems led to a federal law requiring that certain telephones be compatible with hearing aids, died of heart failure Wednesday at the Northwest Hospital Center. The Randallstown resident was 81.

Mr. Saks retired in 1973 as owner of Wayside Furniture, which he operated in the Baynesville area for about 20 years after working as a furniture salesman.

His wife, the former Reba Sigel, who died in 1993, had served as interior designer in the business. She used a hearing aid and one day in downtown Baltimore found that a pay phone couldn't be used with the device. The Sakses started campaigning for telephones that are hearing-aid compatible and formed the Organization for the Use of the Telephone (OUT).

Their work contributed to a 1983 federal law requiring that coin, emergency and some other phones used by the hearing-impaired be made compatible. The phones must emit an electromagnetic field that can be picked up by a hearing aid equipped with a telephone switch. At the time, Mr. Saks noted that though he was pleased, he had wanted a law that required all new telephones to be hearing-aid compatible.

In Maryland, OUT helped get a law enacted requiring phone companies to label equipment that can't be used with hearing aids, protecting hearing-impaired people from buying equipment they can't use.

OUT also got AT&T; to agree to make coin telephones compatible and the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. agreed to do the same thing for Trimline phones used in many Maryland hospitals.

His work was praised by legislative and telephone company aides who dealt with him.

Later, Mr. Saks started the Society for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (SPSP) to raise money for research on this and other diseases of the brain.

His work brought him a Jefferson Award for Community Service from the Kennedy Foundation and an award from the Alexander Graham Bell Foundation.

A native of Portsmouth, Va., who was raised in Eastville, Va., he came to Baltimore as a young man. He earned a high school equivalency certificate in his 50s.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc., 6010 Reisterstown Road.

He is survived by two daughters, Edith R. Kahn of Randallstown and Leila B. Feldman of Columbia; two sisters, Sylvia Carter of Pensacola, Fla., and Annette Simon of Chicago; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Anne M. Torbit, 69, school bus driver

Anne M. Torbit, who was a Baltimore County school bus driver for 30 years, died Monday of cancer at her home in Lake Worth, Fla. She was 69.

Mrs. Torbit moved from Parkville to Florida after she retired in 1992. She was born Anne M. Covahey in Baltimore. Her husband, Warren L. Torbit, died in 1971.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Johnson Funeral Home, 8521 Loch Raven Blvd.

She is survived by two sons, Richard S. Smith of Lake Worth and Scott Torbit of Edgewood; two daughters, Joan Mertz of Parkville and Page Groom of Lake Worth; her mother, Anna Wilson of Lake Worth; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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