Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program

Equipment Program Advisory Committee (EPAC)

June 17, 2010

10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program, Main Office

1333 Broadway St., Suite 500, Oakland, CA 94612


The Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program’s Equipment Program Advisory Committee (EPAC) held its monthly meeting at the Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program main office in Oakland, California. Chairperson, Ann Ruth, called the meeting to order at 10:00 AM.


Committee Members Present:

  • Ann Ruth, Mobility Impaired Community, Chair
  • Kenneth Rothschild, Deaf Community, Vice-Chair
  • Anindya "Bapin" Bhattacharyya, Disabled Community, Deaf-Blind Seat
  • Loretta Moore, Disabled Community, Blind Seat
  • Richard Ray, Deaf Community
  • Julian “Buddy” Singleton, Senior Community
  • Brian Winic, Hard of Hearing Community


Non-Voting Liaisons Present:

  • Tyrone Chin, CPUC, Communications Division
  • Karen Lincoln, CCAF, Customer Contact Department Manager


CCAF Staff Present:

  • Mary Atkins, Marketing Department Director
  • Priya Barmanray, CRS Program Analyst
  • Shelley Bergum, CCAF, Chief Executive Officer
  • Dan Carbone, Customer Contact Liaison
  • Patsy Emerson, Committee Assistant
  • Karen Evangelista, Committee Coordinator
  • John Koste, Telecommunications Equipment Specialist
  • Jen Minore, Field Operations Manager Northern California
  • David Weiss, CRS Department Manager


Others Present:

  • Ed Brink, Sonic Alert
  • Sook Hee Choi, SSP to Anindya Bhattacharyya
  • John Garrett, Attendant to Loretta Moore
  • Jonathan Gray, Clarity
  • Sandy Gross, AFCO Electronics
  • David Lashley, Clarity
  • Peggy Rowan, Attendant to Ann Ruth
  • Jeff Strickland, Clarity


 I. Administrative Business 

 A. Introductions 

The Committee and audience members introduced themselves and it was announced that Buddy Singleton is resigning his seat and moving out of state. Fond farewells and best wishes were expressed by all.


 B. Agenda Modification and Approval 

 The agenda was approved and a review of emergency evacuation plans at the start of each meeting was added as a permanent agenda item.


 C. Review of Minutes from Previous Meeting 


The Committee approved the minutes without changes or corrections.


 II. CCAF Staff Reports 

  1.  Consumer Affairs Report 

 Dan Carbone referred the Committee to his printed report and remarked on feedback about the paint coming off the keys of the Ampli-500 which has been attributed to nail polish remover. In answer to Ann Ruth’s comments regarding ongoing problems with the C4230, Karen Lincoln stated that they have been discontinued and replaced with the C4220. However, there are still a few left in stock and CTAP will continue to see reports come in about them because so many were distributed and many are still out there. Jen Minore addressed the parking issues at the Oakland Service Center and said that there will be ample parking if we move to the new proposed location. There is not a move-in date yet but it is anticipated for this Fall. Buddy Singleton remarked on deaf schools teaching developmentally disabled children to use pagers with cameras which could possibly benefit our cognitively disabled consumers, and Jen said this is a great idea that will be looked into should CTAP get additional wireless devices in the future. 


  1.  Field Operations Report 

 Jen Minore reported that the Santa Barbara and Redding part-time offices are doing well. Ann Ruth had questions about some data in the report and Jen agreed to check her numbers and get back to Ann. Ann also asked if it would be possible to show more details about specific telephones to get a better picture of which are doing well and which are problematic. Jen said that a field distribution report would not show this, that it would be shown in the overall exchange rate which would be part of Karen Lincoln’s reporting. Karen agreed to work with CCAF staff and the Committee to include these numbers in reports for the summer binder and for at least a couple of months. Ann commented on the increase in artificial larynx distribution and Jen said that it is not uncommon for there to be a bump in an item’s distribution after a speech-related event targeting that specific demographic.  


  1.  Marketing Report 

 Mary Atkins reported that the next campaign will be July 12th through August 8th in the San Francisco and Sacramento areas, followed by four-week campaigns in L.A. and San Diego and then Fresno, Redding and Santa Barbara. There is also the possibility of doing a comparison of “Parade” magazine ad responses to those of local papers like the “Oakland Tribune”, “San Francisco Chronicle”, and “Sacramento Bee.”  

 Regarding ADA celebrations, the DDTP will have outreach specialists and booths at some of the events and is considering sending out a video release about how the consumers of the program have benefitted from the ADA in their personal and professional lives. Brian Winic suggested a “new way of advertising” electronically by using pop ups on apps and Mary asked him to forward information to her. 


 E. Consumer Contact Report  

 Karen Lincoln reported that her department has been doing user acceptance testing and it is going very well. The collaboration between CTAP, CCAF and CSD is wonderful and any issues that have come up have been resolved very quickly, so there will be no delay in reporting. Everything is in place to go live with the new systems on June 28th with only the e-mail and chat capabilities still to be finished.  


 G. Wireless Report 

 Karen Lincoln reported for Mansha Thapa on Phase II of the pilot that since the field has been distributing devices, they are going much more quickly and should be out of stock by the end of summer. Loretta Moore asked if she should stop pushing people to apply if there will be more demand than supply of the phones. Karen advised her to tell applicants that when all the approved devices for the pilot have been distributed, the commission is considering making it a permanent program. However, we should continue collecting information so that when an appropriate device becomes available, applicants can be contacted. CCAF is keeping track of those people who are interested and also considering how pilot programs will be conducted in the future. Richard Ray suggested looking into making program announcements on captioned radio such as L.A. County Commissioner Janet Neal’s show. 


  1.  CRS Report 

 David Weiss said that the reports for the transition month of May were what were expected considering that the vendor contracts were expiring, but not too bad. CapTel growth slowed which was likely due to running out of the equipment needed for the service.  

 Richard Ray asked for clarification on the 3rd party notification on CapTel calls. David responded that the California State Penal Code requires that all parties who are on the call be notified that a 3rd party is also listening in. In order to comply with the law, the new providers created the “This call is being monitored for quality control purposes” message. David added that many, many CapTel users have complained not only about the message but about the confusion it causes and that the CPUC has been made aware of these complaints. Richard said that to be monitored is not functional equivalency and that he personally thinks it is ridiculous. Kenneth Rothschild asked if there is any way to eliminate this from the penal code.  


 New Action Item: Tyrone Chin will check with the CPUC as to whether the requirement of a 3rd party announcement on CapTel calls could be legally waived. 


 Following several comments from the Committee on the 3rd party issue, David said that more definition is needed as to what functional equivalence means. On CapTel calls, unlike TRS calls, the operators have no role in clarifying their function and are unable to interact with the consumers on either end of the call. David added that Helen Mickiewicz has worked on (and reported to TADDAC about) this issue with the Attorney General’s office in Sacramento and that several other organizations, HLAA among them, have filed grievances against the state concerning this requirement in the penal code. At this point CTAP is keeping track of every complaint they receive and improving the FAQs to keep people informed about the situation. The other issue that has come up with the transition is the 3 cents per minute now being charged by AT&T and Hamilton as default long-distance providers. So far there haven’t been any complaints about this but they are expected after consumers receive their June phone bills and see the charges. Overall the transition has gone smoothly with very few glitches.  

 David addressed previous Action Item #141 regarding Reverse 911 capabilities with CapTel and whether mass emergency notifications would get through to users. He and Priya Barmanray found that it is not technologically possible with one-line CapTel and, although it may work with two-line CapTel, consumers have to pay for the second line and the service is not satisfactory. They are still working on it to find a resolution but need to work harder. There have been filings with TDI and FCC and more are encouraged. Richard Ray commented that there are a lot of companies providing Reverse 911, or mass notification, and they have been made aware of this issue. Loretta Moore asked Richard to send her the information on which companies specifically are working on these emergency procedures. 

  1.  Equipment Report 

 John Koste reported on an evaluation based on internal testing by staff, FAs, and Outreach Specialists (55 people) and external testing by consumers and HLAA members (15 people) of basic amplified cordless phones. The phones were Clear Sounds A55, Clarity C4205, Serene CL30, and Clarity W425. The evaluation concluded with the recommendation that the C4205 be replaced with the W425. Kenneth Rothschild moved that EPAC accept the proposal and the motion passed unanimously. 


 III. CPUC Update 

 Tyrone Chin reported that the CRS-3 transition on June 2nd was generally successful. CD is continuing to collaborate with CCAF and CSD on the transition and upgrade to the EPC’s new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and set to go live on June 28. Regarding the marketing contract, OneWorld is just finishing up its first set of TV, radio, and print ad campaigns and will launch the next campaigns in July. CD continues to work with CCAF on distribution of the Jitterbug but will be out of units soon which will end this phase of the trial, while the CapTel 800s are on order and will be here within the next week.  


 IV. EPAC Business 


  1.  Report from the TADDAC Liaison 

 Kenneth Rothschild had nothing new to report from EPAC’s last meeting in April. He stated that he had already e-mailed TADDAC with all the issues EPAC had come up with, specifically the new 3 cent long distance charge, but had not yet received any responses.  


  1.  Report from the Chair 

 Ann Ruth reported on the status of the Wireless Report which has been sent to the CPUC with a list of additional agents to be included on the list of certified agents in the hopes that more wireless devices will be added to, and more people will be able to take advantage of the program. The report has also been forwarded to all five members of the Commission requesting that the Commission grant the authority to the CPUC to add these certifying agents. Ann will follow up with them in the coming weeks. 


 V. Lunch 12:15 to 1:15  


 VI. Public Input 

There was no public input.


 VII. Clarity Presentation 

 Jonathan Gray gave a brief overview of the company and some products and technology currently being developed, in particular ClarityLogic which allows a customer service representative to diagnose and fix a consumer’s telephone live over the phone line. Jonathan showed slides and described the features of several more phones and devices including the C4220 which is replacing the C4230 already in use in the program.

David Lashley and Jeff Strickland presented more technical information to help the Committee better understand what goes into making a good amplified phone. They stressed that louder is not necessarily better in a phone, as loudness can cause distortion and loss of intelligibility. 95% of persons with hearing loss don’t hear in the upper frequencies which is where all the intelligibility is in normal speech, so a good phone is one that amplifies higher frequencies more than lower frequencies and that is loud enough without distorting sounds. The power of the acoustic signal produced by an amplified phone is measured in decibels, or dBs, which is a relative measurement and in a unit called a dBSPL which is an absolute measurement. David stated that in the end the consumer only cares that when they get their phone home, they can hear through it. Clarity tested numerous phones said to be 50 dBs and no two phones had the same loudness when real speech was put through them, so not all phones have been tested the same way. The people at Clarity think that their industry and the end users, the people who depend on their products, would benefit from all products being measured the same way by an independent third party, so that consumers could make real comparisons and informed choices, and so the State’s dollars would be spent wisely. Clarity is looking to gain broad agreement in the industry on a standard of how telephones should be measured, that manufacturers submit their phones to an independent test lab, and that testing results be made available to the public openly and objectively.


 VIII. Sonic Alert Presentation 

 Ed Brink gave a brief history of the Sonic Alert Company and the signaling devices and amplified telephones they produce primarily for the deaf and hard-of-hearing but moving into products for the visually impaired. In 2006 they began a joint venture with the Geemarc Company, a well respected European phone manufacturer, and Sonic Alert is now their distributor. Ed showed slides and discussed the features of several Geemarc phones which are now in use and of some newer phones just being introduced including one for persons who are also low vision. Their newest phone is the Amplidect350 which has tested very well with hearing aid T-coils and which they hope to send to John Koste to take a look at within the next couple of months. Ed referred to the Clarity presenters’ mention of standardization within the amplified phone manufacturing industry and Sonic Alert and Geemarc are both working with Clarity to establish an association that will push this idea through.


 IV. EPAC Business continued


 C. Review of Action Items List 

 Previous Action Item #10: The Committee will collect feedback from their constituencies about new equipment and technology that is being focused on by EPAC and give it to CCAF. 

No new feedback was given but Brian Winic mentioned that the IPhone4G is coming out soon and Richard Ray mentioned the Sprint Evo which is still in development but should be available soon. 

 Previous Action Item #51: Loretta Moore will provide the contact information for the group that is working on code compliance for people with disabilities. 

 Karen Evangelista read from her list of EPAC’s safety concerns and marked off those that had been addressed. The Committee agreed to discuss any unresolved issues in September. 

 New Action Item: Loretta Moore will e-mail TADDAC re: addition of emergency alert systems at the DDTP office to the Budget Must Haves.

 Previous Action Item #93: The Committee will discuss and assess the TPIC program and determine implementation for termination of the program within EPAC. 

 This item will remain on hold until September.

 Previous Action Item #104: Brian Winic to test Bluetooth devices and report to the Committee. 

 Brian reported on three devices, the CE50, the Beetle, and the BLT7, all of which are hearing aid and cochlear implant-friendly and have similar sound quality. This item was completed and closed.


 Previous Action Item #106: Richard Ray to update the Committee on Dr. Thad Starner’s emulated 911 TTY Phone. 

 Richard reported on his recent experiences at the National Emergency Numbering Association Conference. He attended a variety of company presentations and saw a number of positive changes in the industry which he thinks are due to the push to provide direct access to 911, regardless of which device an individual uses. The companies are well aware of the issues and challenges involved in mass notifications and the technology is developing rapidly. Richard described one of the 911 test calls to LAPD he made at the conference using I.P. Relay which ended up taking more than five minutes to finally connect him to 911 dispatch. Fortunately the FCC was represented in the audience and they saw the whole thing. Regarding Dr. Thad Starner, Richard said that the team had been working with several of the providers that were there and that they are getting a lot more support. This item was left ongoing.

Previous Action Item #109: Committee to analyze underserved or unserved areas of California. Loretta Moore will lead this project. 

 Loretta reported that although she has already presented the Underserved and Unserved Areas report, she has received more data which she would like to compile and share with the Committee. Loretta recommended that further assessment be done of the Victorville area as a place for a presentation and that planning begin on having an off-site meeting there.

Previous Action Items #s 131, 134, 136, 138, 139, 140, and 141 were not discussed.


 IX. Other Business: Member Reports 

This item was not discussed.


 X. Future Meetings and Locations 

This item was not discussed.

 XI. Suggested Items for Next Month’s Agenda and Review of Action Items 

 This item was not discussed.

The meeting was adjourned at 4:00 pm.

 These minutes were prepared by Patsy Emerson.