Speech-to-Speech Relay (or Telecommunications Relay Service) is a federally mandated service for people whose speech may be difficult to understand because of a medical condition or because they use a voice synthesizer, voice enhancer, or electrolarynx. The service helps remove the communication barriers that people with speech disorders face when they are doing something as basic as ordering a pizza or making a doctor’s appointment. The person with the speech disability calls the telecommunications relay system in his state and a specially trained communication assistant (CA) takes down the number that the person with the speech disability wants to call, places the call, and acts as an interpreter for the conversation. For example, to make a doctor’s appointment, the CA calls the doctor’s appointment desk on the phone, listens to the person with the speech disability, and repeats the message word-for-word to the doctor’s receptionist. Communication continues with the CA acting as the voice of the person with the speech disorder.
The telecommunications relay system also facilitates calls between people who use a standard phone and those who use a TTY (or text telephone) due to hearing impairments. As of March 1, 2001, all states were required to provide Speech-to-Speech/Telecommunication Relay Services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Check the “Rights and Responsibilities” pages in the opening pages of your local telephone book, or call your state’s Department of Administration for details.
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