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PROGRAM FOR DEAF INVESTORS DEMONSTRATES HOW ACCOMMODATION OF THE DISABLED CAN PAY OFF

 PRINCETON, N.J., July 27 /PRNewswire/ -- When the Americans with Disabilities Act took effect a year ago, many feared the price tag of compliance for U.S. businesses would be billions of dollars a year.
 However, Merrill Lynch's special communications program for deaf investors -- the only one of its kind in the nation -- has had just the opposite effect at the nation's largest brokerage house. It has unlocked the door to a vast, untapped market, and opened lucrative Wall Street employment opportunities for approximately 24 million deaf and extremely hard of hearing Americans.
 Merrill Lynch's Deaf/Hard of Hearing Investor Service provides communication equipment via telephone to allow the deaf to handle their own financial affairs by linking them directly with financial consultants.
 The special program also has allowed Merrill to hire deaf brokers whose customers include investors who have normal hearing.
 Since establishing its special investor program, Merrill Lynch has seen a substantial increase in its number of hearing-impaired customers, and a substantial increase in managed assets.
 The company has 81 financial consultants across the nation working with the hearing impaired. Some are deaf themselves; many of the others are relative of deaf people.
 In Manhattan, Stephen Hopson, who is deaf, works as a financial consultant from Merrill's midtown office at 717 Fifth Avenue. Mr. Hopson, using the special communications links, estimates approximately half his clients hear normally.
 In person, he communicates flawlessly by reading lips. Long distance, he communicates via a TDD, a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf, and he also uses fax machines.
 Patrick Bass, another deaf financial consultant, works from a San Francisco Merrill office. Stephen Hlibok, who is also deaf, works from a Columbia, Md. office near Baltimore. Terrence Toppin, also deaf, works from Merrill's Palm Beach offices in Florida.
 The program originated with Christopher Sullivan, a deaf technical analyst who now heads the program which consists of special equipment and dedicated telephone lines with numerous 800 numbers for specific services.
 "You have no idea what a revolution this is for hearing impaired people," Sullivan said. "For the first time, they can directly communicate about their most complicated financial concerns."
 -0- 7/27/93
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: System demos, Sullivan, local interviews with financial consultants in this service are available/
 /CONTACT: Stephanie or Richard Stern for Merrill Lynch, 212-688-7878/


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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jul 27, 1993
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