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Local News

Disability advocate group offers Will, Grundy residents free amplified phones

Bob Smith, 69, of Joliet, demonstrates Monday how to use his amplified cordless telephone – the Clarity XLC3.4. As an Illinois resident who is hard of hearing, Smith was eligible for and received a free phone through the Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living.
Bob Smith, 69, of Joliet, demonstrates Monday how to use his amplified cordless telephone – the Clarity XLC3.4. As an Illinois resident who is hard of hearing, Smith was eligible for and received a free phone through the Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living.

JOLIET – Free amplified phones are available at the Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living in Joliet for people with disabilities who cannot use standard telephones.

It’s a great program, but few people know about it, said Missy Martin, the center’s program director.

WGCIL is one of 25 organizations statewide that partners with the Illinois Telecommunications Access Corporation to offer the free amplified telephone program to anyone with hearing or vision loss.

People can visit the center at 2415 Jefferson St. in Joliet to try out five models. Once a client selects the one best for them, the phone is delivered to his or her home.

Choosing a phone through ITAC also benefits the center, Martin said. The local disability advocacy group serving Will and Grundy counties receives $40 for every phone distributed.

Through its partnership with ITAC, the WGCIL distributed 121 amplified phones to new clients in 2015 compared to 94 in 2014. In 2015, the center ranked third statewide for distribution behind Forest Park’s Progress Center for Independent Living, which distributed 175, and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in Chicago, which distributed 154.

Statewide figures show 2,056 new clients were signed up at the center in 2015.

Bob Smith, 69, of Joliet said Monday the phone he received from the center a year ago has “really, really helped.”

“I have family in Ohio, Florida. … And before, we would be having a phone conversation and I would say, ‘What? Excuse me? Speak up,’ constantly. I got to the point where I didn’t want to call people,” Smith said. “Now, I can hear.”

Smith, who also uses a hearing aid, said he would encourage anyone to come to the WGCIL and check out the models. Some phones are designed for people with hearing loss, while others, with large buttons, are designed for those with sight problems.

To be eligible, the person must be an Illinois resident, have working phone service in his or her residence, and submit an application signed by a medical professional that the applicant is unable to use a standard phone.

ITAC – governed by the Illinois Commerce Commission, a board of directors and an advisory council with area representatives – has been issuing equipment since 1988.

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KNOW MORE

For more information on getting a free amplified phone, visit will-grundycil.org or call the Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living at 815-729-0162. The center also provides a tele-typewriter line – 815-729-2085 – and a video relay service line – 815-768-2582.

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