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AirTel launches service for hearing impaired in Maharashtra & Goa circles

Our Bureau

Pune , Sept. 1

MOBILE service provider AirTel on Wednesday announced the `Confidence Plan', a unique service that will allow the hearing impaired in Maharashtra and Goa circles to communicate with each other through text messages or SMS.

It plans to roll out the plan nationally in the near future. Speaking on the occasion Mr Christopher Tobit, COO, Bharti Cellular Ltd (Maharashtra and Goa) said the new venture is part of the company's efforts to use technology to make a difference in the life of people.

The confidence plan was launched in Pune city by actor and film-maker, Mr Amol Palekar, who was invited to simultaneously inaugurate `Express Yourself', an exhibition of paintings by the hearing impaired, sponsored by AirTel.

"The service will open new vistas for communication for this segment of society. We never realize just how much we depend on the spoken word for communication but communication is also possible, sometimes more effectively, through other means and it is encouraging that this company has shown the way by harnessing technology for the benefit of society," Mr Palekar said.

The confidence plan, meanwhile, offers subscribers a slew of benefits including two thousand free mobile-to-mobile messages within the local network along with the facility to send messages to local, national and international networks.

Users can also access all the SMS based value-added services of the company as part of the package, which has been priced at Rs 99 monthly rental and an activation charge of Rs 250. The company also simultaneously launched a variant of the package, which comes with a voice call facility with a call rate of Rs 3.50/minute. SMS costs after the first 2000 messages have been pegged at thirty paise each.

Interestingly, the company has also announced the launch of the circle's first non-voice customer care service for the hearing impaired where all the subscriber has to do is send an SMS to 121 and register the request. "Providing a highly subsidised SMS package to the hearing impaired will facilitate communication within the hearing impaired community as well as society at large and is in keeping with `Express Yourself', which is the company's core brand promise, Mr Tobit said.

The service has been kicked off in all key Maharashtra and Goa circles including Nashik, Nagpur, Goa, Kolhapur and subscribers wanting to join the scheme are required to submit proof of hearing impairment from an ENT department of a local government hospital. The announcement of the launch has been received with much rejoicing in the city . "The hearing impaired, especially the younger generation suffer due to lack of opportunity to communicate amongst themselves unless they are face to face which is not always possible. With this service the segment of population can also lead a fuller life by remaining in touch with their family and friends," said Mr Apte of the Pune Karna Badheer Mitra Mandal, an organisation of the hearing impaired in the city.

The organisation has now evolved a unique code-book based on numbers and signs so that even those who cannot read and write the language can still stay in touch with their family/friends through the code language.

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