Bell Atlantic Corp. introduced a new service yesterday designed to allow the hearing-impaired and speech-disabled in Maryland to use telephones more easily. The service allows callers to gain access to text-based TTY phone systems by dialing three digits -- 711 -- rather than the previous 11-digit number.
With the new system, Maryland becomes the first state in the continental United States to have 711 calling. Hawaii has such a service.
A TTY system allows a hearing-impaired or speech-disabled caller to use a telephone by typing a text message. The message is sent to one of the special relay centers across the country. At these centers, an operator reads the message to the person at the other end of the phone call.
The operator then types the other party's verbal response so that it can be read by the caller. The 711 access code is dialed by anyone calling from or to a TTY phone. The system may be used with any phone.
Callers will not pay extra fees to use the 711 service. The existing 11-digit number, 1-800-735-2258, will remain in effect and is required for calls made from outside Maryland.
Maryland Relay, the state-operated relay center handling TTY calls in Maryland, carries more traffic per capita than any other relay service in the nation, with more than 200,000 calls per month.
John W. Dillon, Bell Atlantic's vice president for external affairs, said Maryland Relay Center officials were quick to seek the 711 service once it was approved by the Federal Communications Commission in 1997.
"We had almost immediate response from the Maryland Relay people," Dillon said. "They were right on top of us."
Dillon said New York-based Bell Atlantic plans to introduce 711 calling soon in the rest of its Maine-to-Virginia service territory.
Pub Date: 2/09/99