Many office phone systems automatically answer calls and take messages when a phone is busy or unattended. However, none of these voice-mail systems can take calls from telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDDs), the terminals that the hearing-impaired use with telephones. While that may seem like a minor inconvenience now, it could give large corporations problems in complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which President Bush recently signed to become a law in 1992.
ROLM Co., a telecommunications company jointly owned by IBM and Siemens, says its PhoneMail system can now record not only voice messages but those from TDDs as well. New software determines when an incoming call contains the distinct tones that TDDs generate and answers with an appropriate invitation to leave a typed message. Persons wishing to read the message would then use a special TDD-equipped phone. In the future, the system might also translate TDD messages into computer text, electronic mail, or other formats, according to Stephen Bissett, the ROLM engineer responsible for the new feature.