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WhereAreHACphones

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On Aug 14, 2003, the FCC ordered that cellphone manufacturers and cell service providers must provide hearing aid compatible phones. Page 50 of the report says:

(1)  Each manufacturer of handsets used with public mobile services for use in the United
States or imported for use in the United States must offer to service providers at least two
handset models for each air interface offered that comply with § 20.19(b)(2) by [three years
after publication in the Federal Register].
 
(2)  And each provider of public mobile service must include in their handset offerings at
least two handset models for each air interface that comply with § 20.19(b)(2) by [three years
after publication in the Federal Register], and make available in each retail store owned or
operated by the provider all of these handset models for consumers to test in the store.
 

This large ruling is simplified here, and is part of what FCC calls Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC). It is codified in the Code of Federal Regulations as 47 CFR 20.19 (where the CFR itself is essentially 'a big set of books defining how federal agencies will carry out and enforce laws enacted by Congress').

OK. So where are those phones? CTIA built a website to address this, but as best I can tell that website was abandoned in place in 2003. As best I can tell, FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) maintains a Disability Rights Office (DRO) whose job it is to track HAC compliance. I found that they have a web page where they track waiver requests, most of which have been filed by Clarity, a division of Plantronics. Additionally on March 8 of 2004, the FCC filed an order establishing reporting dates for HAC, but I was unable to locate any of those reports, or the ATIS reporting form suggested in the order.

Side note, the DRO also appear to be the folks who watch over .gov rules about closed captioning.

CGB tracks consumer complaints, but appears not to have a category in their tracking reports for compliance with the HAC rules.

So, my question is - where are the HAC cellphones? How does one find them? The three year deadline was passed in June of 2006, so each cellphone maker and cellco should have at least two hearing aid compatible models, right? Searching the web turns up a few references to this order, and basically no compatible cellphones. Hmm. 

  • U3 = can hear the phone with a hearing aid (no 'hum' or 'beat' interference basically)
  • T3/U3T = can use a hearing aid's t-coil to hear the phone
  • Here's how they measure and rate phones. Here is another link. This link defines it tersely enough for nontechnical types.

I had trouble parsing the language of the Ruling and CFR 20.19. Does it state that each carrier must have x number of phones that are U3 or T3 compatible? Or does it mandate a set number of phones which must specifically be T3 compatible? T3 is what I actually want - U3 is helpful but it is not enough, because positioning a U3 phone so you can hear the caller is very difficult, especially when there is ambient noise.

Aha. 20.19(b)(2) is the part of the Code that specifies U3T as the minimum standard for inductive coupling. Later in the code:

(d)  Phase-in for public mobile service 
handsets concerning inductive coupling.  
(1) Each manufacturer of handsets used  
with public mobile services for use in  
the United Sates or imported for use in 
the United States must offer to service  
providers at least two handset models 
for each air interface offered that com- 
ply with §20.19(b)(2) by September 18,  
2006.
(2) And each provider of public mo-
bile service must include in their
handset offerings at least two handset
models for each air interface that com-
ply with §20.19(b)(2) by September 18,
2006 and make available in each retail
store owned or operated by the pro-
vider all of these handset models for
consumers to test in the store.

So. Yeah. There should be some tcoil-equiped phones at the cellphone store, dammit!

  • Verizon is listing the HAC qualities of their phones now! Just select a phone and click the 'features' tab.
  • T-mobile doesn't list the M/T ratings.
  • AT&T lists the HAC ratings on a special page.
  • Alltell has no HAC ratings yet.
  • Sprint lists HAC ratings on this page.
  • Motorola lists all of their HAC phones here - click a phone to see the M/T rating. 
  • Nokia lists their HAC phone and M/T rating here.
  • LG lists M/T rating in the specs for each of their phone offerings on the 'key features' tab.
  • I could not find any HAC listing for Sony Ericsson phones.
  • Phonescoop lists 'accessibility' features for many phones.

There is another solution: a bluetooth neckloop; of which there are two on the market (that I know of). The Artone device costs $300; the ELIdevice is around $280. ELI can also be used without the neckloop, on HA's that have a DAI shoe.


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