ANNAPOLIS (Sept. 12, 2016)—Governor Larry Hogan today announced that Maryland Relay, a public service provided by the state to assist people who are unable to use a standard telephone to make and receive calls, is now accepting applications for no-cost tablets through the Maryland Accessible Telecommunications (MAT) program. The announcement coincided with the start of "Telecommunications for All Week" in Maryland, which lasts from September 11 through September 17, and reinforces the Hogan administration's commitment to expanding communications services for all citizens.
"Our administration is focused on finding ways to improve the quality of life for all of our citizens," said Governor Hogan. "The tablet program is just the latest example of how we are working to ensure that all Marylanders, regardless of disability, are able to communicate with ease—an ability that many of us take for granted."
The announcement comes on the heels of two telecommunications conferences held in Annapolis: the Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program Association (TEDPA) Conference, which took place last week, and the National Association for State Relay Administration (NASRA) Conference, in progress through Wednesday.
Maryland residents who are unable to use a standard telephone due to a disability and who meet specific financial requirements are eligible to apply for a tablet computer. After an evaluation, approved applicants will receive a tablet from the State of Maryland that will come pre-loaded with software—including video chat or captioned telephone programs—to assist with telecommunication. The Maryland Board of Public Works approved the addition of tablets to the MAT program in June 2016, and tablets will begin to be distributed this month.
"For a child or adult who is Deaf, DeafBlind, hard of hearing, or has difficulty speaking, access to a tablet computer can make a significant difference in their ability to communicate successfully," said Brenda Kelly-Frey, director of Telecommunications Access of Maryland (TAM). "A person using a tablet is no longer tethered to a landline, and can make calls from anywhere at any time using WiFi. Maryland has always had one of the most advanced and comprehensive telephone equipment distribution programs in the country, and as phone technology continues to shift from analog to more Internet-based solutions, it is vital that we update our equipment selection to include these new tools. We thank Governor Hogan for his support of this initiative and the Department of Information Technology for having the foresight to allow us to expand our program."
"This initiative is one of the most novel of its kind in the country, and I thank Governor Hogan, TAM Director Brenda Kelly-Frey, and the Department of Information Technology for making this possible for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard-of-hearing constituents," said Kelby Brick, director of the Governor's Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. "The tablets' technologies will help expand many horizons, enabling our constituents to become better students, employees, and contributing members of their communities."
Maryland Relay is administered by Telecommunications Access of Maryland (TAM), a state agency within the Maryland Department of Information Technology. TAM oversees all Maryland Relay services and programs, including Captioned Telephone service and the Maryland Accessible Telecommunications (MAT) program.
Established in 1997, the MAT program was the first of its kind in the United States to offer no-cost assistive telecommunications equipment to qualified residents who cannot use a standard telephone. Other equipment available through the MAT program include amplified phones, captioned telephones, ring signalers, large-button telephones, hands-free phones, and more.
Qualified MAT applicants are those who do not use a standard telephone due to their hearing status, speaking difficulties, low vision, low mobility, or cognitive factors. They must also meet specific financial requirements. Once approved, applicants must be evaluated at one of the six MAT Evaluation Centers located throughout the state to ensure they receive the equipment best suited to meet their individual needs.
People wishing to apply for a tablet or assistive telephone through the MAT program, or who would like more information, may visit www.mdrelay.org or contact Maryland Relay at 800-552-7724 (Voice/TTY), 410-767-6960 (Voice/TTY), or 443-453-5970 (Video Phone).