Free Telephones

by Shelley Bergum

The California Telephone Access Program is hosting an Information and Resource Fair at the Ed Roberts Center in Berkeley on Wednesday, March 20 from 9:00 to 2:00 pm.  You can get a free hearing screening from 9:00 to noon.  Come and take home your free accessible phone all on the same day.   For more information, call 800-806-1191.  That’s 800-806-1191. 

For those who can’t make the Fair:

The California program which provides free specialized telecommunications equipment and services to people with disabilities and the federal program which provides free cell phones and limited service to low income persons are not related. 

The California program is CTAP, the California Telephone Access Program, which provides many accessible landline phones at no cost to consumers, also offers two wireless devices:  a Jitterbug phone and a Blackberry.  People who are certified as having a mobility, vision, cognitive, or speech disability or certified as hard of hearing can qualify for a Jitterbug phone.  People who are certified as deaf, hard of hearing or speech disabled can qualify for a Blackberry, which is a text-only device.  The cheapest monthly service plan for the Jitterbug is $19.99 per month, and the cheapest monthly service plan for the Blackberry is $49.99 per month. 



The phones are free through CTAP, but users must pay for their own monthly service.  Please see our website.
The federal program that offers free wireless phones and limited monthly service is now also offered to consumers in California as part of the California Lifeline program.  Subscribers must qualify as low income through one of many existing programs, such as Medi-Cal, Tribal Assistance for Needy Families, etc.  One of the wireless carriers offering this in California is Assurance Wireless.  As far as I know, a person with a disability who is also low income could receive a free wireless device through California’s program for people with disabilities (only a Jitterbug or a Blackberry), CTAP, and also receive a free wireless device and limited monthly service through the federal program.  The wireless phones offered through Assurance Wireless phones do not offer any specific accessibility features.  There are no income limitations for California’s program, which is specifically for people with disabilities.
CTAP also offers many landline accessible phones, such as phones with amplification, large buttons, cordless, memory dial, headsets, talk-back phones which announce the number dialed, and more.  Check out the equipment.


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