Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program
Equipment Program Advisory Committee (EPAC)
January 13, 2011
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. Chairwoman 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
  • Bummy Burstein, proxy for Richard Ray, Deaf Community Seat
  • Kenneth Rothschild, Deaf Community, Vice-Chair
  • Ann Ruth, Mobility Impaired Community, Chair
  • Brian Winic, Hard of Hearing Community

Committee Member Absent:

  • Richard Ray, Deaf Community Seat

Non-Voting Liaisons Present:

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

CCAF Staff Present:

  • Sharon Albert, Director of Operations
  • Dan Carbone, Customer Contact Liaison
  • Linda Chan, Marketing Specialist
  • Patsy Emerson, Committee Assistant
  • Karen Evangelista, Committee Coordinator
  • John Koste, Telecommunications Equipment Specialist
  • Mansha Thapa, Business Analyst
  • David Weiss, CRS Department Manager

Others Present:

  • Jonathan Gray, Clarity
  • Sandy Gross, AFCO Electronics
  • Kathleen Bieling
I. Administrative Business
A. Introductions

The Committee and audience members introduced themselves.

B. Agenda Modification and Approval

The agenda was approved with no modifications.

C. Review of Minutes from Previous Meeting


The Committee approved the minutes with two changes: On page 2-2, line 34, the EPC acronym was spelled out as “Equipment Processing Center”, and on page 2-6, line 30, the words “by a large margin over his nearest competitor, Joe Murphy” were deleted.

II. CCAF Staff Reports


  1. CRS Report


David Weiss directed the Committee’s attention to the CRS Dashboard report in the meeting binder and noted that 711 Choice numbers reflected the two month period of time that consumers had to try both new providers before making their final selection. Since August of 2010, 43 consumers have chosen AT&T and 57 have chosen Hamilton. David turned his attention to what had been called the CapTel report but agreed that it should be called the Captioned Telephone report as other companies are developing similar products and services such as Sorenson’s new software application called Call Caption. David said that this competition for caption-based telephone service could be advantageous to consumers by noting that the price of Hamilton’s CapTel 800 has dropped from $350 to $99 for state programs.

  • Field Operations Report


Sharon Albert reported for Jen Minore that traffic is increasing at the Santa Barbara Service Center and also at the new Berkeley facility in the Ed Roberts Campus. Sharon also said that they have identified two possible locations where the San Diego center may relocate and are very close to completing all the ADA surveying and paperwork and hope to move sometime this summer. Bummy Burstein asked what the difference was between communication in English and ASL on the Statistical Comparison page of the report and Sharon replied that she wasn’t sure but would find out how and why that distinction was made. Kenneth Rothschild remarked that the outlying service centers should be open an alternate day when the only day they would normally be open falls on a holiday. Sharon then discussed the backlog of persons waiting to receive CapTel phones. David Weiss and Karen Lincoln explained that there is a more intensive assessment process and face to face training necessary before these phones are given out but that they are in stock and, with extra help from Hamilton, the waiting list should shrink very soon.

  • Marketing Report


Linda Chan reported for Mary Atkins that a new marketing campaign begins February 7th and OneWorld Communications (OWC) and the marketing department are putting the final touches on the new creative. A schedule of when and where the new creative will run will be available January 26th. In response to Loretta Moore’s question regarding tribal communities, Linda answered that marketing has been working with OWC to market more to Native American populations.

  • Customer Contact Report


Karen Lincoln reported that a two month trial had begun on new online contact channels on the DDTP Website on the Contact Us page: a Contact Us Form where you can make comments or ask questions and get a response by email or phone, a Chat Live function where you can chat online with a CTAP agent, and the My Equipment Order Status which is a self-service feature where you can track the status of your equipment order. Karen encouraged the Committee members to take a look at them and give their feedback online during this trial period so that their comments could be tracked. She also pointed out that many of the information and reporting issues related to the transition are being resolved and her team is working to present this data in new ways that are more succinct and that will help to identify areas in the program that need to be addressed. In addition they are preparing an executive summary and quite a few consumer surveys that will provide a more in-depth analysis of customer behavior.

E. Consumer Affairs Report


Dan Carbone pointed out the section of his report dealing with malfunctioning voice-activated dialers and said that John Koste is currently testing a device called The Sage which has better voice recognition. Dan also talked about the section of his report that addresses unused TTY machines and suggested that the DDTP conduct a survey to be able to decide what to do with these unused devices. Ann Ruth thanked Dan for the comments about different equipment that he includes in his reports and how useful the information is to the Committee.

New Action Item: Tyrone Chin is to find out from CPUC CD how they would prefer the DDTP to manage unused TTYs in a way that supports CD’s efforts and complies with program mandates.

Kenneth Rothschild questioned whether it was worth the time, cost, and effort to get the TTYs back from customers. Karen Lincoln replied that consumers are always encouraged to keep their TTYs for emergencies and also these devices are state assets and part of our mandate is to manage state assets and bring back all serialized products. Several Committee members remarked that more and more of their deaf friends are cutting their land lines because they can no longer afford them and instead are depending on VOIP. Loretta Moore suggested that a message about the usefulness of TTYs in an emergency be included with our marketing. Jonathan Gray of Clarity noted that Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) is a growing industry with many companies breaking into the market right now. Ken added that our friend Richard Ray is on the job in Washington DC sitting on the Emergency Accessibility Advisory Committee.

  • Equipment Report


John Koste reported that the C4205 for hard of hearing, low vision and mobility is being discontinued and has been replaced with the W425 which has improved tone settings and tone control. John next reported that the test results of an amplified phone for people with a mild hearing loss have just been compiled by an HLAA chapter in Southern California who conducted the test and will be available in report form shortly. John also discussed The Sage, an all voice-activated device which looks promising in testing and can also be hooked up to a land line. In response to Ann Ruth’s comments about Speech Generating Devices and the need to do something for that community of consumers, John said that they are currently looking at an infrared speakerphone that can work with SGDs and he has put it at the top of his priority list.

New Action Item: To support the evaluation of testing priorities, John Koste will report at the next EPAC meeting on the upcoming schedule for testing devices.

G. Wireless Report


Mansha Thapa gave an update on the wireless devices she is currently testing. One cell phone she feels is perfect for persons who are blind, have low vision or are hard of hearing is the Sanyo Vero. The second phone is the Samsung Epic which Mansha thought might be confusing to the blind as its talkback is too fast, but it could be good for the deaf. This third is the Doro phone which is simple, easy to use, and unlocked so customers can use it with different service providers. Mansha then asked the Committee to let her know if there were any cell phones they were interested in having her test.

III. CPUC Update


Tyrone Chin reported that the CPUC met with the marketing vendor last week and they are in the process of finalizing print, video, and radio ads. Kenneth Rothschild asked if the CPUC was represented at the Department of Justice hearing on a proposed rulemaking held in San Francisco January 10th and Tyrone replied that he did not know but would check on it and get back to him.

IV. EPAC Business
  1. Report from the TADDAC Liaison

Bummy Burstein reported on highlights of the last TADDAC meeting. First he mentioned the panel discussion of Speech to Speech users which he found very interesting. Next he said that TADDAC will be going to the CSUN Technology Conference and holding their monthly meeting there on March 17th. Bummy then said that TADDAC had also discussed the issue of unused TTYs and had determined that individuals should be encouraged to keep them to contact 911 in the event of an emergency. He noted that all of the bulletin announcements from companies such as Purple and Sorensen still encourage people to keep their TTYs. The last item Bummy shared was the wireless issue as it relates to 911 and the Committee’s hope that before long wireless users will be able to access emergency services directly from their cell phones. EPAC members look forward to getting an update on 911 emergency issues from Richard Ray at the next meeting.

  • Report from the Chair

Ann Ruth said that she would work with John Koste and the Committee to get their priorities lined up so that they can get work done quickly and efficiently and make their meetings as productive as possible.

  • Review of Action Items List

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

Bapin Bhattacharyya presented information and a “how to” about using iPhone 4 via Braille access. He described how Apple has incorporated VoiceOver into its operating systems for Mac Computers, iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. He also discussed: Bluetooth connectivity, a Braille display/notetaker as a Braille terminal interface, using Braille Sense Plus with iPhone 4, and using iPhone 4 for e-mail, SMS, IM, web surfing, GPS, and numerous other applications, all very wonderful. Bapin cautioned that not all deaf-blind persons are as tech savvy as he is and that the cost of training would have to be considered if this kind of device was added to the Program. This item was left as ongoing.

New Action Item: Now that Apple has announced that Verizon will be getting the iPhone 4s, Mansha will follow up with Verizon to find out what kind of services or discounts they will have for persons with disabilities.

V. Lunch 12:15 to 1:15
IV. C. Review of Action Items, continued


Previous Action Item#145: Karen Evangelista will confer with Angela Shaw to determine what, if any outreach events may be occurring in early April in the Victorville area with which we could partner.

Karen Evangelista reported that Angela Shaw had provided a list of CBOs in Victorville and Patsy Emerson has been trying to locate a facility that would accommodate an event but had run into some roadblocks. Patsy added that she had expanded her search to surrounding communities such as Apple Valley and was expecting to hear back tomorrow from two different locations about the appropriateness and availability of meeting spaces. The site will need to not only have adequate meeting space and rooms for testing and equipment distribution, but also have plenty of parking and be close to public transportation. Patsy will notify the Committee just as soon as she has located a suitable venue. This item is ongoing until then.

VI. Public Input

There was no public input.

VII. Clarity Presentation

Jonathan Gray gave a Power Point presentation on the science of sound and how that translates to the technology of amplified telephones. Jonathan defined and then compared analog versus digital phones and how DSL and VoIP are changing things in the amplified phone industry. Analog phones work on a Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) line and have an RJ11 jack. Close to 100% of amplified phones are analog. Digital phones have what is called an Ethernet or computer cable that plugs in the back and do not work on POTS. Many phones are advertised as fully digital when really just parts of them are digitalized. To be fully digital a phone must have three things: a digital signal that goes from the base to the handset (like a cordless phone), a digital signal processor (a tiny computer chip inside the phone that controls audio quality), and an Ethernet cable that plugs right into the phone (receiving a direct digital signal from an outside source). But not all these things are compatible with devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. Digital Subscribe Line (DSL) is high-speed Internet data sent over a traditional phone line at the same time as voice is sent, but it needs a filter or the voice becomes unintelligible. Newer DSL units have the filter built in but most states don’t provide the filter. John Koste interjected that the DSL filter is one of the most popular accessories that we provide with our telephones. VoIP, or voice-over Internet protocol, is a digital signal sent directly to your house but with an analog telephone adaptor (ATA) device that coverts digital signals to analog and vice versa. VoIP uses a coaxial cable like we have for our TVs and many people, seniors in particular, are giving up their land lines for VoIP and purchasing Internet, TV, and phone as a bundled package from companies such as Comcast, which is simpler and cheaper. The challenge for amplified phone manufacturers is how to support VoIP users as the technology changes. Still, having only VoIP is risky if you should lose power in an emergency. The biggest issues involving VoIP and amplified phones that are reported to Clarity revolve around the ringer and poorly built ATA devices. Clarity is researching how all the different ATAs work so that their phones will work with all of them, but ultimately call quality is a function of the digital service that an individual receives from their provider.

VIII. Senior Citizen Community Representative Seat Vacancy


Karen Evangelista went over the reason for sending the application addendums to the Senior Citizen Community Seat candidates and said that the CPUC had expressed concern that the candidates had not been asked specifically about their affiliations with the senior community during the interview process. The questions on the addendum asked this directly and the Committee agreed that going forward they would tailor their interview questions to fit the seat being filled. The Committee reconsidered their nomination of Jack Levesque to the Senior Citizen seat and after some discussion on the other candidates and what they would bring to the committee as well as issues of diversity, a motion was made.

Motion: Ann Ruth moved that Jack Levesque be the Senior Seat representative for the EPAC committee.

The motion passed with four members in favor and one abstaining. The Committee agreed that they would like Jack to be involved in the meetings as soon as they get approval from TADDAC and the CPUC and Kenneth Rothschild said he would amend his original recommendation letter and get it to Ann for her okay right away.

IV. C. Review of Action Items, continued


Previous Action Item # 144: CCAF 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”.

Karen Evangelista emailed the CPUC in October but has had no response. She will follow up with Tyrone Chin.

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

Committee members asked Patsy Emerson to resend the Action List Archive document for their consideration.

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 agreed that they should leave this item ongoing as a reminder to continue to reach out to increasing numbers of veterans who need our services. The wording “Committee will consistently try to confer with marketing and outreach to make sure veterans are being served in all areas” was added to the Action Item. Patsy Emerson will ask Jen Minore for any veteran contacts she may have and add veteran’s organizations to the Victorville meeting invitation mailing list.

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

As Richard was not present at today’s meeting, the Committee will leave this item ongoing and wait until the next meeting for his report.

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.

Brian Winic described the features of the Playbook from BlackBerry that is coming out soon. It will support flash players and will be with WiFi and be smaller than the iPad but easier to use. Brian also discussed the Quattro versus the ClearSounds neck loop, compatibility issues of neck loops and Bluetooth technology. Jonathan Gray of Clarity pointed out that Bluetooth technology was developed to be manufacturer “agnostic” and compatible with any device regardless of manufacturer.

IX. EPAC Offsite Meeting in Victorville


This item was discussed earlier during review of Previous Action Item #145.

XI. Future Meetings and Locations

The Committee discussed the logistics of making a visit to the new Berkeley Service Center at the Ed Roberts Campus and Karen Evangelista agreed to confer with Jen Minore about a good time to have a group tour, perhaps in March. Karen Lincoln said that they would like to talk about wireless at the next meeting and are hoping to get the go ahead from CD to share a CCAF Wireless Process Proposal. Mansha Thapa brought the DDTP Website up on the screen and showed the Committee how to access the new contact portals; CTAP Chat Live, the Contact Us Forum, and a place for checking the status of equipment orders. The portals can be found on the Contact Us page and are undergoing a two month trial period. Mansha and Karen asked the Committee to go online and give their feedback so that it can be tracked, particularly about font size and how the site looks.


The meeting was adjourned at 4:00 pm.

These minutes were prepared by Patsy Emerson.