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Your UCP: National October 13, 2003
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Assistive Technology

What You Should Know About Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS)

Think for a moment how valuable the telephone is in your everyday life. The telephone allows you to talk to others immediately and conveniently. But what about those persons who can't hear, can't speak or those whose hearing has diminished with age? how do you communicate with them?

Telecommunications Relay Service, also known as TRS, is your convenient link to telephone system users who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech disabled. This service creates a link for persons using a standard voice telephone with person's who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech disabled and use text telephones or TTY's.

When you want to call a TTY user, simply call TRS. A communications assistant will place your call and tope you spoken words for the text telephone user to read. The communications assistant will also read messages that the TTY user sends back to you. All conversations are private and confidential and everything the communications assistant hears will be relayed to the TTY user. There is no censorhip. There is no charge to to TRS users, however, long distance and toll charges do apply. Callers can use TRS as often as they want—24 hours a day, seven days a week—and conversations have no time limits.

You can reach the TRS by dialing 711 in any state. TRS providers also have direct dial numbers that are listed in the tlelphone directories or on their Web sites.

TRS provides for other services to be used as well:

  • Speech to Speech is the relaying of calls for those who have a speech disability and may not be readily understood when using the telephone. This service is also available by calling 711 or the direct number provided by the TRS provider. The communications assistant is able to assume an active or passive role in repeating the conversation and follows the same guidelines as with a TTY call—all conversations are private, confidential and relayed in their entirety, 24 hours a day.
  • TRS call from payphones - On October 25, 2002, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that TRS calls from payphones will remain free of charge for local calls, and that TRS toll calls from payphones can only be made using the following payment options: Calling Cards, Prepaid Cards, Collect, Third Party Billing. More information on prepaid phone cards is on the FCC's Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) Web site.
  • Video Relay Service (VRS) is a video link using TRS that allows a communications assistant to view and interpret the caller's sign language and relay the conversation to a voice caller. This type of relay service is not required by the FCC, but is offered aon an optional basis by certain TRS providers. To learn more about VRS in your area, call your local TRS provider, or visit the FCC Web site.
  • IP Relay Service: On April 22, 2002, the FCC ruled that IP Relay Service falls within the definition of TRS. IP Relay enables two-way communication between an individual who9 uses a non-voice terminal device (a computer, PDA, Web-capable telephone, or pager device) and an individual using a standard voice telephone. IP Relay Service works as follows:
    • A user establishes a local connection to an Interne service Provider (ISP) using a computer, Web phone, personal digital assistant, or any other IP-capable device.
    • The user points the Web broser to the Internet address and clicks on the relay operator's icon.
    • When the call reaches the Internet platform, it automatically establishes a conneciton, via and 800 number, to that TRS provider's relay center.
    • The call is immediately reounted to a communicaitons assistant, and a regular relay session is initiated.
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