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AT&T Adds iPhone Plan for Hearing, Speech Impaired

The iPhone may not be any more accessible to those with hearing or speech impairments, but it’s now more affordable on a monthly basis. AT&T has introduced a $40-per-month Text Accessibility Plan available through the company’s National Center for Customers with Disabilities. The plan includes unlimited SMS messaging and unlimited EDGE data, along with 40-cent-per-minute voice usage and Apple’s Visual Voicemail.

Customers who qualify can purchase and activate an iPhone as if they were applying for a regular service plan, and then contact AT&T’s center to have the plan changed to this new offering.

This plan is essentially the same as the most expensive messaging package available as an add-on for existing AT&T customers who upgrade to an iPhone – that unlimited messaging plan also costs $40 per month – without any requirement for a voice plan. For other customers, AT&T requires at least a $40-per-month voice calling plan, which would be the equivalent of 100 minutes of calls made per month using this new offering.

A separate iPhone TTY (teletype) adapter ($19) allows the use of standard TTY equipment for relay calling, although relay calling requires the use of voice minutes. Apple documents its iPhone accessibility features, although the iPhone lacks a common feature ensuring hearing-aid compatibility that is not yet mandated by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC apparently started enforcing a requirement on 18-Apr-08 after cellular telephone carriers failed to hit a mark that 50 percent of all cell phone models offered have one or both of two forms of hearing-aid compatibility.

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