Contemplated Legislation To Provide Telecommunications for the Deaf

Gao ID: LCD-78-118 August 14, 1978

GAO discussed legislation under consideration which would provide for telecommunications between deaf people and various agencies of federal, state, and local governments. It would provide for installation of terminals in government offices and in other locations, for establishing equitable rates for use of certain terminals, and for assistance personnel at certain locations. Grants would be made to state and local governments to assist in meeting costs. Terminals now used by the deaf employing the Baudot Code are not compatible with terminals that use the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII). Devices to make the terminals compatible add complexity and cost.

The General Services Administration's Federal Telecommunications Systems (FTS) could be used to provide required communication services under the legislation, but operational and administrative difficulties and costs may preclude such use. Use of the FTS at government locations would be authorized under existing law, but extension of its use to nongovernment parties would require specific legislation. Estimated costs of carrying out the contemplated legislation range from $372,000 to $748,000 in nonrecurring costs and from $8.3 million to $26.5 million in annual recurring costs. A pilot study should be performed to determine the best way to implement the program. It should include evaluation of effects of using either or both Baudot and ASCII terminals, determine information needs of the deaf, include traffic analysis, and develop policies and procedures. A prior GAO report on information and referral services should be considered before expansion of the contemplated program.

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