Information on Accessible Cell Phones for People with Special Needs
It All Starts with Communication
Speech to Speech is a relay service for people who have a speech disability. STS relay is one type of Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS). Speech-to-Speech allows a person with a speech disability who is not comfortable talking directly on the phone to have a phone conversation. People who do not have speech disabilities can also use the same Speech to Speech service to call a person with the speech disability. Speech to Speech can be used for business or personal phone calls. Speech to Speech is a Federal program that is available in all 50 states but the STS relay service is run as a state service rather than a national service.
Specially trained relay operators or communication assistants serve as the speech-disabled user’s voice and repeat his/her responses to the called party only when necessary. Speech to Speech communication assistants are specially trained to understand a variety of speech disorders and can repeat the caller's words to the called party so communication is clear and understandable. Speech to Speech is available 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year with no restrictions on the number or length of calls. Speech to Speech calls can be made by anyone with or without a speech disability, as long as one of the parties has a speech disability. Speech-to-Speech enables a person with a speech disability to communicate over the telephone using his or her own voice or speech synthesizer. Speech to Speech is a free service to the person with the speech disability. No special equipment is need for the speech disabled person to use the Speech to Speech relay service however speech synthesizers and . The only cost to the person with the speech disability is the underlying call cost. No pre-registration or registration for Speech to Speech relay service is required. All calls using the STS service are completely confidential.
Step 1: The speech disabled person dials into the speech to speech (STS) relay service number, 7-1-1 or specific toll free number. The communication assistant will make the call to your party (voice user). If required the communication assistant will briefly explain the service and how it works to the party.
Step 2: The person with the speech disability talks directly to the voice user.
Step 3: If required, the communication assistant will re-voice the speech disabled person's conversation.
Step 4: The voice user talks directly to the person with the speech disability.
Step 5: The two parties continue to carry on the conversation.
The main alternative to Speech to Speech relay service is use a HCO (hearing carry over) relay. HCO relay requires a device that consists of a TTY and built-in telephone. Hearing Carry Over (HCO) allows the person with the speech disability to listen to the person they are calling and type their message to a communications assistant who will voice it to the other party. However, the HCO telephone/TTY will not allow both TTY and telephone operations simultaneously. The user can only pick up the telephone headset to listen to the other party after typing "GA" using the TTY to the communications assistant.
All HCO relay calls are confidential by law, but privacy HCO relay is an option if you prefer that the communications assistant is not listening in while the person you have called is speaking. You would simply type "Privacy HCO" relay and then follow the instructions for the relay call. The communication assistant will disconnect their headset while the person you have called speaks. When your typing appears again, the communication assistant will reconnect and read your message to the person you have called.
For two-line HCO relay you must have two telephone lines with separate telephone numbers. Two-line HCO relay allows you to use one telephone line for listening directly to the other person, while the second line is used to type your response. This enhanced feature provides a more natural flow of conversation without the pauses of single-line HCO relay calls.
A TTY on its own dedicated phone line, separate from the phone line used by the voice telephone.
Separate voice telephone with its own dedicated phone line. Although not required, you will probably want to use a telephone with good speakerphone capability or a telephone that allows you to use a headset. Either option will provide for hands-free conversation, allowing you hear what the caller is saying while simultaneously typing your response with both hands
3-way conference calling feature on the telephone line where the voice telephone is used. The telephone line where the TTY will be used does not need to have this feature.
You should use whichever communication method best meets your needs. The possible advantages to Speech to Speech are:
Speech to speech relay doesn't require the additional hardware of a TTY.
Speech to speech relay doesn't require the additional second telephone line that HCO relay does so that you can hear the other party.
Speech to speech relay doesn't require the person who is speech disabled to type using a TTY as HCO relay does.
Speech to speech relay allows the person with the speech disability to communicate with an Augmentative and Alternate Communication (AAC) device.
People with conditions that may affect their speech such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson's disease
People who have had a stroke that may also have speech disabilities
People who have traumatic brain injury that may also have speech disabilities
People who stutter
People who have had a laryngectomy - surgery to remove the larynx (voice box)
Additionally, anyone who wants to make a call with a person with a speech disability should use the STS relay service.
All Speech to Speech relay provides must:
Ensure user confidentiality
The service must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Answer a minimum of 85 percent of calls within 10 seconds
Have communication assistants remain with a call for a minimum of 15 minutes
Have the Speech-to-Speech communication assistant, if requested by the userwill retain information from a particular call in order to facilitate the completion of subsequent consecutive calls. The Speech-to-Speech communication assistant will only retain the information for as long as it takes to complete the subsequent calls.
Offer their users the option to maintain at the relay center a contacts list consisting of names and telephone numbers that the Speech-to-Speech user commonly calls.
Have in place emergency call procedures in case a Speech to Speech user calls 911 through the relay service.
Speech to Speech relay services are provided at no cost to all STS relay users. State relay service programs provide and pay for Speech-to-Speech relay services used on in-state calls. The FCC oversees the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Fund which pays for Speech-to-Speech relay services used on interstate calls.
What number does someone call to make a Speech to Speech relay call?
It used to be that each state had their own number for accessing Speech to Speech Relay services. If you were traveling out of state, you had to know the STS relay number of the state you were in. Now, you simply dial 7-1-1 no matter which state you are in and you will be connected to the state's Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS). Let them know you want to make STS relay call. In additional each state has direct toll free phone numbers to call in directly to the Speech to Speech relay service.
Do you have to have a speech disability to call or use the STS relay service? No. Anyone who wishes to call someone with a speech disability can use STS and call the Speech to Speech service.
Do I need any special equipment to use the Speech-to-Speech Relay Service? No. But if you use a speech synthesizer or Augmentative Communication Device (ACC), you can use it.
Do I need to sign up to use Speech-to-Speech Relay Service? Do I need to pre-register to use Speech-to-Speech Relay Service? No, if you just call up the STS relay service out of the blue, the first time, you can use it. The service is completely confidential.
I have a speech impairment, how should I make 911 emergency calls? That probably depends on the specific situation because there are many different emergencies. If you dial 911 without talking, 911 dispatchers are trained to listen to the background sounds of the call and then determine which service would be dispatched and dispatch it. That is probably the fastest way to get some emergency services. However, there could be some scenarios where a 911 call through the STS relay service might get a better and more appropriate dispatch.
I have a problem with my Speech to Speech relay service, what can I do?
If you are unable to resolve a problem with your Speech to Speech relay provider directly, you can file a complaint with the FCC. You can file your complaint using an on-line complaint form found at esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm. You can also file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by e-mailing email@example.com; calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554.
What to Include in Your Complaint
The best way to provide all the information the FCC needs to process your complaint is to complete fully the on-line complaint form. When you open the on-line complaint form, you will be asked a series of questions that will take you to the particular section of the form you need to complete. If you do not use the on-line complaint form, your complaint, at a minimum, should indicate:
your name, address, e-mail address, and phone number where you can be reached;
whether you are filing a complaint on behalf of another party, and if so, the party’s name, address, email address, day time phone number, and your relationship to the party;
preferred format or method of response (letter, fax, voice phone call, email, TRS, TTY, ASCII text, audio recording, or Braille);
that your complaint is about TRS;
the name, address, and telephone number (if known) of the company or companies involved with your complaint; and
a brief description of your complaint and the resolution you are seeking, and a full description of the equipment or service you are complaining about, including date of purchase, use, or attempt to use.
Call these toll free phone numbers to access the Speech-To-Speech
(STS) relay service in your state. Alternatively you can call 7-1-1 to
contact your state's Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) of which the STS
relay service is a part. (Alphabetical by state) Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware District of Columbia Florida Georgia Hamilton Interstate Relay Service Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Sprint Interstate Relay Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington State West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming Puerto Rico Virgin Island
Speech to Speech Relay Service Access Numbers in the United States
Call these toll free phone numbers to access the Speech-To-Speech (STS) relay service in your state. Alternatively you can call 7-1-1 to contact your state's Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) of which the STS relay service is a part.
(Alphabetical by state)
District of Columbia
Hamilton Interstate Relay Service
Sprint Interstate Relay
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