Do you have trouble hearing your grandkids when they call you or your spouse when you are in a restaurant? Approximately one in three adults between 65 and 74 has some loss of hearing and almost 50% of those who are 75+ have trouble hearing. 

What about your vision? Is it getting more difficult to read a book, both on your tablet and the traditional way? Vision loss affects 37 million Americans older than 50 years and one in four who are older than 80 years. 

Getting older means sometimes finding new ways to do simple things like talking on the phone or reading a book. There are services available to assist older Coloradans to do just that. 

Relay Colorado offers services for the hearing or speech impaired. The services are provided by T-Mobile and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) via a small fee on your phone bill. There are several services to choose from. They are relay services, captioned telephone services, speech-to-speech services, and conference captioning. Let’s look briefly at each. 

Relay services connect a standard telephone user with deaf or hard of hearing people using a Teletypewriter (TTYs) or a Voice Carry-Over (VCO) phone. The caller dials 711 or a toll-free number specifically for the type of equipment being used. An attendant answers, connects the call, and types the conversation into the TTY so the receiver can read it on their screen. The receiver types her response, and the attendant reads the message to the caller. Frequent users of this service can set up a profile so their preferences and unique needs are recorded for ease of use in the future. However, all calls are confidential, and no records of actual conversations are kept. Relay services can be used in English or Spanish. Calls can be made anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with no restrictions on the number, length, or type of calls.

Captioned telephone services use a special phone with a screen for those who are hard of hearing to both hear and read the conversation. It is very similar to using the closed-captioning function on your TV. For the service to work, you need both the CapTel 840 phone and the CapTel captioning service. You also need an analog phone line. Contact the Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at 855-767-6128 to see if you are eligible for a free CapTel phone. 

Speech to Speech services assist Coloradans who have a speech disability to place and receive telephone calls with support from a communications assistant. They use their own voice to communicate, and the assistant repeats their words if needed. The assistant is specially trained to understand the caller’s unique speech patterns. Callers can also send an email with call instructions or information in advance. Callers need to set up a profile to send instructions before calls. This is a terrific service for those with stutters, who have a trach tube, or use a speech synthesizer. This service is accessed by calling 711. On a cell phone, the service is accessed by tapping *STS. 

Relay Conference Captioning (RCC) is great for Coloradans who are deaf or hard of hearing. The technology helps them take part in teleconference calls or Zoom meetings by offering live captioning through a web browser on a computer or mobile device. The user reads the captions and then types or speaks any replies. The captioner will voice any typed responses. Both the caller’s and the captioner’s remarks are included in the transcript of the call. Callers can use a computer, tablet, or phone, but they must book a call at least 48 hours in advance. This service is free to residents of Colorado. 

Check out the Relay Colorado website for more information and resources on their services. 

For Coloradans who are vision-impaired, the Audio Information Network (AINC) is a valuable resource for news and information. AINC provides users free access to audio newspapers, magazines, podcasts, books, and more. Listeners can play content on a computer, tablet, or phone, on a digital receiver, with Apple Play, Spotify, or Amazon Echo. By registering for the service, AINC can assist users in obtaining a digital receiver or an Echo for free. The content is both local, regional, and national in scope. Some of the content topics include The New York Times Book Review, The Denver Post, The Aspen Times, Readers Digest, Colorado Outdoors, and many more. 

Lastly, the ColoradoTalking Book Library offers vision-impaired Coloradans access to audiobooks, braille books, and large print books through the USPS at no cost. You are eligible to use this service if you are legally blind; you can’t focus long enough or see clearly to read traditional print; you can’t handle print books or turn pages; you are certified as having a learning disability that prevents you from reading in the usual manner. These conditions could be permanent or temporary. You must fill out an application to use the library and it must be signed by a nurse, doctor, librarian, therapist, activity director, social worker, or teacher certifying your condition. 

The library has over 35,000 audiobooks, 7,000 Braille, and 22,000 large print books with new books added each month. The audiobooks require special playback equipment provided by the library. The library offers recorded children’s, young adult, and adult books from national publishers. They will record local and regional books on demand. Members can also borrow descriptive movies, which describe the visual elements by narrating the action, characters, locations, and costumes without interfering with the dialogue or other sound elements. Also audio, Braille, and large print magazines are available to borrow, including titles like Analog, People, Sports Illustrated, Popular Science, and more than 70 others.

Coloradans are fortunate to have these resources at their disposal at no cost. These free programs assist the hearing or vision impaired live their best lives by greatly reducing existing  limitations. If you need these services or know someone who does, visit the links we’ve provided here.

You may also be interested in watching/listening to the AgeWise Colorado Webinar where you will learn more from our experts on these topics.