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RELAY CENTER CALLS TOP HALF A MILLION IN 1992

 DETROIT, April 1 /PRNewswire/ -- The Michigan Relay Center (MRC) handled more than half a million calls in 1992 on behalf of the state's deaf, hard-of-hearing, and speech-impaired residents, an advisory panel reported today.
 In its second annual report to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), the MRC advisory board noted that the volume of incoming calls handled by the center grew 34 percent during the year.
 The Michigan Public Service Commission ordered relay service and provided a funding method in 1990. The MRC began operation May 29, 1991, to provide barrier-free telephone service. Michigan Bell operates the center on behalf of the state's 38 local telephone companies, which share its approximately $6.5 million cost.
 Since its inception, the MRC has handled nearly 700,000 calls.
 From facilities in Birmingham and Dearborn, more than 100 relay representatives alternately speak and type to relay the communications between telephone users and those who type their words on special keyboard devices called TDDs (Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf) when they communicate over the telephone network.
 "The center allows deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech-impaired individuals to call anyone, anywhere, at any time," said Chris Hunter, director of the Michigan Department of Labor's Division of Deafness and one of three members of the MRC advisory board.
 Commission Chairman Steven Fetter said the important role the MRC plays in the lives of thousands of Michigan residents is typified by a letter the MRC received from a Walled Lake couple whose daughter is profoundly deaf.
 "The MRC helped transform the family's life by providing them the easy communication the hearing world takes for granted," said Fetter. "It makes possible something as simple as baby-sitting for this young woman -- and offers a range of freedom not possible before the commission established the center."
 Monthly calling volume reached 51,000 in December, but MRC Director Carla Smit noted that multiple calls on each contact push the figure to more than 70,000.
 "Calling volume grows as people learn how easy MRC service is to use -- and confidentiality guides everything we do," said Smit.
 Confidentiality is safeguarded through a combination of security measures and procedural rules, she said. Security requires employee ID cards and special entry codes, and prohibits visitors to the operations area.
 Relay operators relay spoken and typed exchanges between hearing and deaf customers word-for-word, without editing or censorship. They are forbidden to disclose any information from calls, and no records of conversations are kept.
 The MRC operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can handle any call originating in Michigan, including local and area code calls, as well as interstate and international long distance.
 The center accepts billed-to-third-number, collect and calling card calls. There are no additional charges for using the relay system. Normal local and long-distance charges apply to calls placed through the MRC.
 The toll-free MRC number is 1-800-649-3777.
 -0- 4/1/93
 /CONTACT: Mary Jo Kunkle of MPSC Staff, 517-334-6983; or Phil Jones of Michigan Bell, 313-223-7194/


CO: Michigan Bell; Michigan Public Service Commission ST: Michigan IN: TLS SU:

ML -- DE016 -- 2089 04/01/93 14:01 EST
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Date:Apr 1, 1993
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