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Handheld help.

For the 25-40% of people with MS who develop speech disorders, a solution can be found at their fingertips, literally.

A simple task such as talking on the telephone can be daunting for those with more progressive forms of MS--especially those who experience slurred speech, long pauses and a nasal tone. But today's smartphones are fully capable of providing services designed for people with such speech impairments.

Accessible telecommunications

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that all manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and its providers ensure that these items are usable by persons with disabilities. Those with hearing and speech concerns can use TTY technology, which stands for Text Telephone (also known as TDD, or Telecommunications Device for the Deaf).


Here's how it works

The sender types a message on a keyboard that is plugged into a telephone. The message is then transmitted via text to the receiver, who also must have a TTY device.

Smartphones in the picture

Janet DeClark, MA, CCC-SLP, a speech language pathologist who participates in wellness programs at Colorado-based Can Do MS, said her patients often bring up smartphones in conversations about how to cope with their MS.

"Their lives are on these things, so they're very, very used to using a smart device," she said. Adapters now allow smartphones to send and receive TTY calls.

TTY goes smart

TTY services are available on both BlackBerry phones and iPhones. Those who have TTY devices can register online for a free TTY adapter for Black-Berry; the iPhone adapter costs less than $20 and can be found at online retail stores. Options vary, but, for example, BlackBerry users can hook up to Lormar Logic Wireless TTY that uses a BlackBerry's data plan and wireless network, or sign up for an iPhone TAP (Text Accessibility Plan) to receive unlimited text, data and other features.

DeClark recommends phones with a touch screen, such as the iPhone or the BlackBerry Storm, as they are easier to navigate for many people with MS than devices with a raised keypad. However, DeClark is adamant that using smartphones and TTY for communication should not take the place of regular speech therapy. They should be used on an "as-needed basis."

Still, people who already use smartphones for so many functions from e-mail to web browsing might find another useful form of communication in TTY.

Chloe Thompson is a writer in Washington, D.C.

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Title Annotation:MS TECH; smart phones for multiple sclerosis patients
Author:Thompson, Chloe
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2010
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