The House of Representatives has passed a bill introduced by Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (D-Dist 21, Warwick) that would add cell phones to the list of devices available through Rhode Island’s Adaptive Telephone Equipment Loan Program.
The legislation (2016-H 7014), which passed the House 72-0, now heads to the Senate, where similar legislation (2016-S 2051) has been introduced by Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence).
“This program was established to assist the deaf and hard of hearing,” Naughton said in a statement. “Since that time, the way people communicate has changed drastically. Having these devices available, especially in medical emergencies, is absolutely essential for the well-being of those who need them. Adding wireless devices to the loan portfolio will help to keep the program up to date with new technologies. There are now many apps available to the deaf and those with speech issues that can greatly enhance their ability to communicate.”
Adaptive Telephone Equipment Loans, which is administered by the office of Rehabilitation Services, is a partnership with the federal government and the manufacturers of devices that are useful to the deaf and hard of hearing, and those with neuromuscular issues. The program provides demonstrations, training and long-term loan and device reutilization services of specialized telephone equipment to qualified individuals. Applicants must be Rhode Island residents, deaf, hard of hearing, or speech disabled and meet income criteria.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 35 million Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing now rely on texting and smartphone apps for communication.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Representatives Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), Robert B. Jacquard (D-Dist. 17, Cranston), Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown) and Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston).