About 28 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing, and more than 8 million are blind or visually impaired. Many of these individuals are older Americans, and over the next 30 years, as the baby-boomer generation ages, the number of adults who are visually impaired or who are hard of hearing is expected to grow substantially.
Social Security is at the forefront of government agencies working to make all information and services available to these individuals.
For the deaf and hard of hearing Deaf and hard of hearing individuals are encouraged to visit Social Security’s Web site at www.socialsecurity.gov to file for benefits or to find information about a wide range of Social Security topics.
People who are deaf or hard of hearing also can call Social Security at its TTY number, 800-325-0778. They can ask for information, or may immediately file for retirement, survivor’s and Medicare benefits without an appointment using a TTY/TDD machine. Callers applying for benefits should have certain documents in hand, such as their birth certificate, most recent W-2, military service and bank account information.
The paperwork completed by TTY/TDD during the initial contact will be mailed to the applicant for review and a signature. Along with the signed form, Social Security also needs certain documents, such as a person’s birth certificate and proof of citizenship or residency to establish eligibility for Social Security benefits. An applicant can either mail or take these items to a local Social Security office.
For the blind andvisually impaired Blind or visually impaired individuals who have personal computers with screen readers can access information at the Social Security Web site, www.socialsecurity.gov. Screen reading programs “read” text on the screen and convert the text to speech through a speech synthesizer or sound card. More detailed information about this technology is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/accessibility.htm.
Visually impaired visitors to our Web site can quickly change the text size on their computer to make the information easier to read. This is done through the “Web Eyes” plug-in, which is available free on the homepage. Web Eyes can increase text size from 10 to 144 points, in two-point increments.
The Social Security Web site also lists publications for blind or visually impaired people. Materials are available in Braille, audio cassette tape, disk, or enlarged print form. Free copies of a publication can be ordered online or by calling 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778).
Jim Czechowicz is a Minneapolis specialist in the Office of Public Affairs with the Social Security Administration. He can be reached at