Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program

Equipment Program Advisory Committee (EPAC)

November 4, 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:

Anindya "Bapin" Bhattacharyya, Disabled Community, Deaf-Blind Seat

Loretta Moore, Disabled Community, Blind Seat

Richard Ray, Deaf Community

Kenneth Rothschild, Deaf Community, Vice-Chair

Ann Ruth, Mobility Impaired Community, Chair

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:

Sharon Albert, Director of Operations

Mary Atkins, Marketing Department Director

Shelley Bergum, CCAF, Chief Executive Officer

Patsy Emerson, Committee Assistant

Karen Evangelista, Committee Coordinator

John Koste, Telecommunications Equipment Specialist

Jen Minore, Field Operations Manager Northern California

Mansha Thapa, Business Analyst

David Weiss, CRS Department Manager


CPUC Staff Present:

Linda Gustafson, Communications Division

Jonathan Lakritz, Branch Manager Communications Division

Penney Legakis, Communications Division


Others Present:

Michael Abramowitz, Amplicom

Sook Hee Choi, SSP to Anindya Bhattacharyya

Sharon Dror

John Garrett, Attendant to Loretta Moore

Sandy Gross, AFCO Electronics

David Gusky, Consumer Cellular

Gary Moore, Clarity

Carol Morabito, Jitterbug

Peggy Rowan, Attendant to Ann Ruth

Stephen Smouha, Amplicom


Present by Phone:

Talia Rubiano, Hamilton Relay

Jonathan Masters, Mobile Captions


I.        Administrative Business


A.      Introductions


The Committee and audience members introduced themselves.


B.      Agenda Modification and Approval


          The agenda was approved and the Committee reviewed emergency evacuation plans.


C.      Review of Minutes from Previous Meeting


          The Committee approved the minutes with one correction. On page 2-8, line 31, the word “doctor’s” was deleted.


II.       CCAF Staff Reports


  1. Consumer Affairs Report

     Dan Carbone was absent and Karen Lincoln presented his report after she presented the Consumer Contact Report.

D. CRS Report

     David Weiss reported that CRS is still working with the vendors to reconcile the dashboard reports and hopes to have them available and back in the binders soon. David did provide call volume summary information from June through August and noted a sharp spike in July which has been attributed to fraudulent calls from correctional institutions.  Hamilton Relay was able to catch some of these calls and the call volume returned to normal in August. Both AT and T and Hamilton have been in compliance with ASA and maintained less than 15 events. Regarding CapTel calls, David was excited to report the change in the privacy announcement that came about after numerous complaints from users. The prerecorded message was dropped and now the person placing the CapTel call receives only a text reminder that they are responsible for informing the person they are calling that there is a third party on the call. A letter has been sent to all existing users notifying them of this change along with an addendum to the original agreement they signed with DDTP requesting that they read, sign, and return the letter, which will then be kept with their file. Richard Ray remarked that having to make this statement still does not achieve functional equivalence to hearing telephone users.  Jonathan Lakritz said that the change was not an ideal solution but it does fulfill the legal obligation of notification of a third party’s presence and it provides a lot of flexibility for users of the service.

  • Marketing Report

     Mary Atkins reported that Southern California campaigns will begin November 14th, there will be three Parade Magazine ads, the Leeza spot will air on TV and radio, there will be Spanish and Cantonese TV ads, the ads that are in The Independent will run in Santa Barbara, and ads will continue to run in yearly senior publications. OneWorld wants to create another testimonial video, like the one Shelley Bergum and some Committee members contributed to, which could be aired during community events segments on television. Invitations to participate in the video will be distributed to Bay Area CTAP users later today. Future videos will be tailored to specific audiences and purposes, such as advertisement for CRS. Richard Ray recalled the Janet Planet captioned radio show out of Los Angeles that is focused on issues relevant to persons with disabilities and Mary said it sounds like a great resource and that she would look into it.  

  • Field Operations Report

     Jen Minore began by congratulating Richard Ray on his recent receipt of the Nadia Powers Leadership Award from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles County Commission on Disabilities. Jen then reported that last year Field Operations had shifted some of its focus to field visits to certifying agents where they left table tents and applications. This July they had an all-time high of 583 field visits employing 17 outreach specialists who also gave several presentations during that time. There was excellent turnout at the second of the CTAP sponsored health fairs in July and in October the Redding office had a record high number of customers. Jen was excited to report that the Oakland Service Center will be open for business in the new Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley on December sixth and is looking forward to a grand opening in January. The building, which is directly above the Ashby BART station, is not only beautifully designed and completely accessible, but houses several organizations for the disabled and will include a Department of Rehabilitation office. This is seen as an excellent opportunity for growth of the program and for networking with other community-based organizations.

     E. Consumer Contact Report

     Karen Lincoln reported that recently the main focus of her team has been the massive transition to new vendor systems. She noted that several of the printed reports are still incomplete due to the size and complexities of the data, but that they hope to fill in all the blanks and be able to provide the Committees with more in depth analytical reports by the spring. Karen also reported that the new CapTel 800 is now in distribution and is being very well received.

  1. Consumer Affairs Report

     Karen Lincoln, reporting for Dan Carbone, stated that there had been a lot of feedback regarding the CapTel privacy announcement but that the CPUC had obviously listened to those reports which in turn drove changes to the process. Karen wanted to illustrate how the data that is captured in reports, when provided to the appropriate parties, can drive change on issues from the hold music at Call Centers to the difficulty of replacing batteries in a communication device. Karen added that many of our manufacturers and distributors not only receive the binders and review feedback each month, but also regularly meet with customer-facing staff to decide upon changes and improvements in product design before they are even produced. Kenneth Rothschild asked about Karen’s report on TEDPA and she assured him it was in the works.

  • Equipment Report

          John Koste reported we have been testing and comparing emergency response phones, the Talk500ER and the Ampli600, with 94% of testers deciding in favor of keeping the Ampli600 due to its simplicity of use. We are also testing seven different phones to compare with the W1000 and have enlisted the support of an HLAA chapter to increase the number of testers. The Deaf/Blind Communicator has been evaluated and feedback is being reviewed. Working with Lighthouse and other low vision consumers, testing will begin next week on devices to replace a Panasonic phone with caller I.D. that has been discontinued by the manufacturer. Bapin Bhattacharyya expressed concern about the technology involving land lines becoming obsolete and David Weiss said that he had just heard that the FCC is soliciting comments from deaf/blind consumers on what sort of equipment they would like to use. This is a perfect opportunity to make one’s wishes known and it is hoped that funding will become available for research and development of new kinds of adaptive technology.

G. Wireless Report

     Mansha Thapa reported that as of October, 370 Jitterbugs had been distributed and phase 2 of the pilot is now closed. A survey was sent to Jitterbug participants in October, and a Survey Monkey link sent to the Committee, and results will be shared with the Committee soon. Mansha and Karen Lincoln attended TEDPA have been working on a report which will be completed by the next EPAC meeting. Loretta Moore mentioned a wireless phone by Verizon that includes a Braille instruction pamphlet and is getting good reviews from blind clients. Loretta will send the specifics to Mansha who said she would look into it and report back. 

     III. CPUC Update

     Jonathan Lakritz spoke about the status of the LifeLine order (the proposed decision of Commissioner Bohn in Rulemaking 06-05-028) to make wireless equipment distribution a permanent part of the DDTP and to provide some direction to and room for further development of providing discounts and second lines for customers. Jonathan said that wireless distribution was going to be tricky due to such issues as bundling that tie devices to services but that the CPUC would be working closely with EPAC, TADDAC, and CCAF to move forward with the process. He asked for patience as the Communications Division develops recommendations on the details of just how wireless distribution will work and how it will mesh with the procurement process. There will be lots of opportunity for input and many questions to be answered before large-scale distribution begins, all while taking into account the unique limitations in California due to the statutory basis of the program. Jonathan said he would rather take the time at the start of this process to collect public input so that choices won’t be made in a vacuum now and later regretted. Obviously no single phone will be right for everyone and multiple devices will have to be considered.

IV.     EPAC Business

  1. Report from the TADDAC Liaison

Kenneth Rothschild reported that the CapTel privacy announcement had been the hot topic at TADDAC’s last meeting but that issue had been covered already. The meeting had really been a catch-up on several months of information and there were no other burning issues.

  • Report from the Chair

Ann Ruth spoke about the proposed decision of Commissioner Bohn which was given as a handout at the meeting and already discussed in the CPUC report. Ann noted the many pages of comments from concerned parties but said we’d have to wait and see what happens with the decision and then continue discussions about the wireless program. She added that she knows the program is supposed to be land line based but that the future is headed elsewhere.

  • 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.

Bapin Battacharyya and Brian Winic reported on the iPad and Playbook and noted that Google and Verizon are coming out with their own versions soon. 4G Networks and 4G readiness were discussed as were EPIC, Quattro, and other Clearsounds devices and devices for the Deaf/Blind. This will remain an ongoing item.

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

Loretta Moore reported that all outstanding compliance issues had been addressed and that the request for talking smoke detectors over exit doors at DDTP had been added to the Budget “Must Have” list and submitted to the CPUC. This item was closed.

New Action Item: Karen Evangelista will request an update from the CPUC regarding the time frame for addressing TADDAC's request for talking smoke detectors for DDTP offices that was added to 2011-12 Budget "Must Haves."

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

Richard Ray noted that in the 2011-2012 Budget Resolution, TPIC was put under the advisory of TADDAC and was recommended to remain at the same budget as last year, $12,000. This item was closed.

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

Richard Ray reported that both the DOJ and the FCC are now addressing the issue of providing direct access to emergency systems using any kind of device, especially text messaging devices.  Richard will continue to follow this issue and to update the Committee on any developments.  This item is ongoing.

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

The analysis has been done and the Committee decided that, using contacts already established per Angela Shaw, decisions about collaborators, the location, size and focus of the off-site Victorville meeting will be made at the next meeting in December. This item was closed.

V.           Lunch  12:15 to 1:15     


VI.     Public Input

There was no public input.


VII.    Consumer Cellular Presentation

          David Gusky of Consumer Cellular, along with Talia Rubiano of Hamilton relay and Jonathan Masters of Mobile Captions who joined in on the phone, gave a Power Point presentation about Consumer Cellular’s new VCO service.  It is a postpaid program that doesn’t require a contract, puts a lot of emphasis on customer service, and targets the aged 50 plus market (90% of their customers). They offer a variety of service plans at affordable rates because most of their customers don’t spend much time on their mobile phones each month and don’t want to spend a lot of money on wireless service. In addition to voice plans they offer bundled packages of text messaging and data services.  David showed slides of the various phones they distribute and passed around several models for the Committee to look at. Some were flip style and others “candy bar” style and all had large buttons and screens.  Finally, David, Talia and Jonathan described the new VCO service that offers mobile captions and which provides a more natural, interactive conversation on both ends of a call. Because the calls are made on a cell phone there are features available that land line calls can’t offer.  This service was demonstrated at NASRA and TEDPA and will have a national release soon.


VIII.   Amplicom Presentation

     Michael Abramowitz gave a Power Point presentation on the Amplicom company and its products which are designed for the special needs market. Amplicom is working with the Telecommunications Industry Association on standardization of the measurement of telephone amplification and with the Association for the Blind on making their products more accessible for persons with low vision. All of their phones have large buttons and LCD displays and meet compatibility standards with hearing aids and T-coils. They can also be programed with multiple user’s particular settings of preferred tones and volumes. They also offer user manuals for diverse populations from foreign languages to Braille readers. Michael showed slides of the different models available and pointed out their various features and also passed around several phones for the Committee to take a look at.

IX.     Senior Citizen Seat Nomination Process

Both Ann Ruth and Kenneth Rothschild have read the applications of prospective members and have a list of four people whom they have invited to be interviewed at next month’s meeting and all four have confirmed that they are able to attend on December 9th.


X.                Future Meetings and Locations

          A draft of the 2011 meeting calendar was included in the binder with EPAC meeting dates continuing on the second Thursdays of each month. November and December dates will not be impacted by the holiday schedule this coming year but the April 14th date may conflict with an ALDA conference. The Committee agreed to look at that date in the new year.

IV. C. Continued:

Previous Action Item #131: CCAF will research the features of the iPhone vs. iTouch and access to 911.

Mansha Thapa reported that she has finally connected with Chris at Apple and is coordinating with him to give a presentation to the Committee in January 2011. She will notify the Committee when she has confirmation. This item was closed.

Previous Action Item #134: The Committee will investigate and explore new equipment for Deaf/Blind users.

This item was included in the earlier discussion of Action Item #10 and will remain ongoing.

Previous Action Item #136:  Ann Ruth and Loretta Moore will work on following up with veteran contacts from the last EPAC off-site meeting.

The Committee will continue to seek the feedback from and try to better serve the growing veteran population by notifying veteran facilities of nearby outreach events and off-site meetings when they occur. This item will remain ongoing.

Previous Action Item #138: The Committee will determine who will work on the EPAC Annual Report and review the Action List Archive Document.

The Committee sees the value of maintaining an Action List in order to document activities and accomplishments. Patsy Emerson will update the 2010 Action List Archives and e-mail it to the Committee who will then choose which actions to highlight and take it from there. This item is ongoing.

Previous Action Item #139: Loretta Moore will develop a report to TADDAC of the results from the study of Underserved and Unserved counties of California.

The counties were identified and a report was developed and presented at the Joint Committee Meeting in May. Plans are moving forward to focus on San Bernardino County and to have an off-site meeting in Victorville. This item was closed.

Previous Action Item #140: CCAF will provide information on the San Bernardino population needs gathered from Field staff.

Information was gathered and developed into a report and plans have begun for outreach in San Bernardino County.  This item was closed.

Previous Action Item #141: David Weiss will research whether new CapTel 800 has reverse 911 capabilities.

The National Emergency Number Association Accessibility Committee is working on how VP and IP Relay users can receive 911 information. CCAF will have internal discussions about who should be responsible for the notification and education of users.  This item was closed.

Previous Action Item #142: Tyrone Chin will check with CPUC as to whether the requirement of a 3rd party announcement on CapTel calls could be legally waived.

The responsibility for notification of a third party's presence on CapTel calls was shifted to the CapTel user and the privacy announcement changed to text only.

Previous Action Item #143: Loretta Moore will e-mail TADDAC re: addition of emergency alert systems at DDTP office to Budget Must Haves.

Loretta sent the addition to TADDAC and it was included in the Budget Must Haves.  This item was closed.


X.                Future Meetings and Locations

          This item was not discussed.


XI.     Other Business: Member Reports


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

      Karen Lincoln said that it had been a long time since the Committee has had a discussion about their priorities regarding equipment and asked if there were other reports or changes to existing reports they would like to see.  Ann Ruth said that the return rate report had always been helpful but she’d like to see the most prominent customer feedback highlighted, either positive or negative, as part of a report. Karen answered that this type of feedback is already part of Dan Carbone’s report but that with the new reporting improvements they will be able to do this more effectively. Karen also said that the Committee should talk about how wireless will be incorporated into the program and should utilize Mansha and John’s reports to keep up on trends in equipment and services. Ann commented that the many issues around the future of wireless such as regulations, VOIP, new products and services, and fewer land lines will present interesting challenges to the Committee, the CPUC and the FCC.   




The meeting was adjourned at 4:00 pm.


These minutes were prepared by Patsy Emerson.