Gov. Mike Hayden announced Friday that Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. has been awarded a contract to provide telephone service to speech- and hearing-impaired citizens of Kansas.
The headquarters for the new service, which will allow speech- and hearing-impaired people to communicate with everyone by telephone, will be located in Lawrence, Hayden said.
About 50 new jobs will be created to staff the center, which will be located at Southwestern Bell's Lawrence central office, 734 Vt.
"The establishment of the Kansas Dual Party Relay Service puts Kansas in the forefront of providing services for the speech- and hearing-impaired," Hayden said. "Only a handful of other states offer this service 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Kansas will be one of only a few states, however, to provide interstate long-distance calling for calls originating and billed within the state."
THE GOVERNOR said the center is expected to be in operation by May 1.
Ron Bothwell has been named manager of the new service center. Five supervisors and 40 to 45 attendants will be hired to operate it. The number of operators may increase depending on the volume of calls processed by the center.
The governor's announcement was not unexpected.
Dave Nichols, the company's local community relations manager, announced in December that Southwestern Bell was in the final stages of negotiating a contract with the state for the services.
Hayden said the service was needed because the privately funded systems now in operation in the state don't provide service to the public on a full-time basis or possess the capacity to handle the large volume of calls attempted.
SPEECH- OR hearing-impaired customers can now use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), a teletypewriter of a personal computer to communicate on the phone. However, they now can communicate only with another person with a similar device.
Under the new system, a hearing-impaired or speech-impaired person would used a TDD to contact the service through a toll-free, 800 number.
The relay center operator simultaneously receives and reads the messages aloud to the hearing person at the other end of the line. The hearing person's spoken words are then typed back to the calling party. The center can also be accessed by hearing persons.
Kansas Relay Service Inc., a free-standing, non-profit corporation, was formed to handle the financial administration of the service center.
A seven-member board of directors was appointed to govern the corporation.
The board will consist of the executive director of the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, the executive vice president of the Kansas Telecommunications Assn., the chairman of the Kansas Corporation Commission, and four members from the state's telecommunications industry.
A 10-person advisory council also will be established to provide input regarding the concerns of speech- and hearing-impaired persons.
At least six of the 10 persons on the advisory council will represent speech- and hearing-impaired organizations.