Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I first heard of CapTel from my DVR counselor back in October 2004. It was my first real semester I went back to school and a Support Service staffer at the tech college thought it was a good idea for me to sign up for VR services.

CapTel is a captioned telephone. The caller can dial the number of the person he wants to call and hear his or her voice as well as read the caption at the same time, though it's delayed (much like on TV-the caption is behind a few seconds).

There is also other feature that people who have vision impairment along with hearing loss can use: CapTel USB. This connects to the computer and the captions are displayed in written text on the computer monitor much like ZoomText (a computer software that magnifies text and enables one to change background colors and font).

When I went through the paperwork with my vocational rehab counselor, she mentioned the CapTel. I had no idea what it was. When I went home that night, I googled it. I navigated the website and asked a question. I was sent a packet about CapTel and its features. There was an order form included. I paged through it and put it away.

A few months later, the phone rang. Hubby answered it and gave it to me. "For you." I frown at him. I don't really get a lot of callers. They'd rather talk to Hubby unless they have a lot of patience. The woman on the other end was talking about CapTel. Me, excited I actually got some words from a stranger, "CapTel?" She went on about the information that was sent to me several weeks ago.

"Oh. I don't hear that well."

Something in her voice told me that she knew I didn't hear that well. It took a few delayed "blonde" moments before it sunk in that she was a CapTel rep inquiring about my interest in CapTel and whether I was going to buy a phone.

I told her I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I wanted to look at it some more. It bothered me that there was a third party involved, transcribing the captions for the phone.

I still have that packet in my filing cabinet collecting dust.

Why? Well, as I mentioned, it bothered me that I would have a third party "listening in." Someone has to transcribe the captions, much like the TTY/TDD (teletypewriter/telephone device for the d/Deaf). I have a TTY, though I only use it to make appointments. I don't really want to use it for personal calls, unless I knew that the person I want to call has a TTY, too. For me, I reasoned, I didn't have much use for a CapTel. I really don't go around calling people and when I do, I know them (my mom, family members, and some friends who are patient). I don't always do well on the phone with male voices, even Hubby's.

Now, there's something new in the proverbal town of the HOH and the D/deaf and it's free: It's called Web CapTel. Hamilton Relay (to see if it services in your state) or Sprint WebCapTel®. The captions will display on the computer screen.

But, as we all know, technology continues to evolve. I was told that voice recognition may be the next step, making transcribers/relay operators obsolete (maybe). I was also told that the Captioned Services do not transcribe the captions, but acutally repeat what the person on the other end says into a computer with voice recognition software that is used to send captioning to the CapTel.

Digital CapTel phones are coming out next year and voice-recognition will be used, if the bugs can be ironed out by then.

This appeals to me because there would not be a third party involved. I guess that always bugged me, even when I used the relay system to make calls with my TTY. I kept it impersonal. I realize that the relay operators/transcribers have a confidentiality and privacy rule in place. It just makes me feel better knowing I am talking to one person.

Another feature of the phone is the large numbers for dialing. At first, four years ago, it was kind of a personal insult to me (only in my mind) that the numbers had to be so LARGE. I didn't need large print, thank you. That was my attitude then. Though I still don't need it, I may in the future and I can't always be "stubborn." Why can't there be a smaller numerical keyboard? (I'm just sayin'). Or is this more marketed toward the aging population who have vision problems due to age. along with hearing loss? I would think that a lot of people with hearing loss may be using this phone do not have visual issues. I wonder how they feel with such a large numerical keyboard?

The CapTel phone is great for those who have a good speaking voice. I have a clear voice. My voice can pass for a hearing person, though I think, as my hearing continues to decline, it takes on a different tone.

If you know something more that I haven't mentioned or if I am wrong about something, please let me know.

This post is dedicated to two Usherites who inquired if I knew about CapTel. Thanks for the idea for a post on this blog. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. :)

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At Wed May 21, 09:56:00 AM , Blogger Laurie said...


I love CapTel! I use the Sprint Captel Relay online and really like it. It works better than my landline Captel phone because my analog Captel phone and digital phone lines don't cooperate very well. In fact, we are getting ready to get rid of our home phone completely because we hardly use it anymore and are tired of the 800 number and political calls we are getting!

At Wed May 21, 12:54:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never used a CapTel phone but there's a program in my state (Illinois) that provides one free if you have a doctor/audiologist certify that you are hearing impaired. I was going to get one but ended up getting a TTY last month when I lost all of my hearing. (Also free through that program.)

I know EXACTLY what you mean about the third party thing! I used the TTY for an incoming call for the first time today (my mom called through the relay service). It was so funny -- she kept talking to the relay operator instead of me ("Tell her I'm picking Paige up on Friday...") and the relay operator had to tell her to talk directly to me.

Unless I'm using the TTY for an actual reason rather than a social call, I feel like I'm wasting the operator's time. It's silly, I know, but I basically make my husband do all the phone stuff now.

Great post!!

At Thu May 22, 11:12:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


Disregard my "to put it bluntly" in my email! I just read your most recent entry. I say, who cares about the third person! True, I may blush when detailing my plantars wart to my mom, knowing that there's a third person listening in. But, if you think about it, how is it different from talking to your doctor (knowing she could be detailing that wart to her husband that same night) or having a conversation in public, where anyone can hear?

Wendi, as for wasting the operator's time. Look at it this way. They get paid to do this! Might as well make them work for their money rather than sit around and play minesweeper. heehee! :) We need to use the resources otherwise, they'll be deemed inefficient and taken away!

I've been using the web cap tel for the past week and am loving it! Only thing - it's a great lesson actually. I have to slow down my talking to allow the captions to catch up. I find myself saying "what?" right as the captions give me the answer and I'll start talking again right over my friend repeating him/herself I'm in danger of becoming an interrupter! I'm really looking forward to calling strangers with the web cap tel. Although, I'll have to be careful when at work. I need to figure out how to hide my monitor's captioned details of how to treat my plantar warts when I call my doctor!

At Thu May 22, 12:08:00 PM , Blogger Shari said...

Laurie-We have a landline phone and Hubby's got a cell. Our computer access to the Internet is dial-up. Hubby prefers this Internet provider, but connection and speed is so sloooowww. Oh, well. Cellphones are worse for me to hear with so I don't have one. I am glad that you love the web Captel. I am looking into it again.

As for telemarketers, LOL, ironically they hang up on me!! They must think I am making their job harder on them on purpose by asking them to repeat themselves. LOL I should be hanging up on them,

Wendi-I am shy and don't really want to discuss things on the phone knowing there's an unknown face relaying/captioning calls. The voice-recognition thing would be great!! No third party.

Sarah-HIPAA laws state the importance of confidentiality and privacy of clients and patients. I am sure the relay/caption operators have a similar compliance and work ethic not to repeat private conversations just like health professionals.

I guess in this instance, it's better to be hesitant before saying "what?" I can see how hard that habit can be to break. I'm always saying "what?" or "Huh?" or just stay quiet.

I am looking going to dust off that packet and look it over again. I don't know what kind of a discount I can get in WI. I'll check it out. Yes, that means I am reconsidering getting one now.

Oh, now I'm curious...gotta check my emails...


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